Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky went on television Sunday morning and seemed to go out of his way to make excuses for Russian interference in U.S. elections. “We’re going to do the same,” Paul said.
He also said he believes it’s a “waste of time” to try to hold Russian President Vladimir Putin accountable for meddling in U.S. elections and we should stop “this witch hunt on the president.”
— The Hill (@thehill) July 15, 2018
Appearing on the CNN show State of the Union, Paul said that “all countries meddle” in foreign elections, and then added:
“I think really we mistake our response if we think it’s about accountability from the Russians. They’re another country, they’re going to spy on us. We’re going to do the same. I think because this has gotten partisan… we’ve forgotten that the most important thing is the integrity of our elections.”
Paul’s comments have thrown more fuel onto the fire just one day ahead of President Donald Trump’s scheduled summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
Many people in the U.S. believe Trump should cancel the summit after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s Friday announcement of special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of 12 Russian military officials for hacking the computer servers of the Democratic National Committee before the 2016 elections.
Paul said that hacking and other intrusions into the elections of foreign countries were not unusual on the world stage, suggesting the United States may even have provoked the Kremlin’s stealth attacks on our election systems.
“We all do it. What we need to do is make sure our electoral process is protected,” Paul said. “They’re not going to admit it in the same way we’re not going to admit we were involved in the Ukrainian elections or the Russian elections.”
“If we don’t realize everything we do has a reaction, we’re not going to be very clear on having peace in the world,” Paul said.
The senator called it a “moot point” whether Trump asks Putin for the extradition of the 12 Russian military officers indicted on Friday.
“If we have proof that they did it, we should spend our time protecting ourselves instead of having this witch hunt on the president,” Paul said. “I think we need to be done with this so we can protect our elections.”
Paul also joined Donald Trump in placing blame on former President Barack Obama for not doing more to stop Moscow’s hacking and interference. “I wish President Obama had been more aggressive in pursuing it,” Paul said.
Correction: Story updated to note that Rand Paul is a Senator from Kentucky, not Tennessee.