Rand Paul: Trump Should Be 'Lauded and Not Belittled' for Meeting With Putin
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) attributed the media firestorm over Monday's Trump-Putin summit to "Trump Derangement Syndrome" on CNN Monday evening, even as CNN host Wolf Blitzer displayed symptoms of an acute attack of the condition.
Paul repeated his defense of President Trump in an appearance on CBS Tuesday morning, saying that Trump should be "lauded and not belittled" for meeting with adversaries like Russia. Paul argued in both appearances that engagement with our adversaries has always been "a good idea."
Paul told Blitzer:
I think that what is lost in this is that I think there's a bit of Trump Derangement Syndrome.
I think there are people who hate the president so much ... this could have easily been President Obama early in his first administration, setting the "reset button" and trying to have better relations with Russia. And I think it's lost on people that they're a nuclear power.
They have influence in Syria. They're in close proximity to the troops in Syria. They are close to the peninsula of North Korea and may have some influence that could help us there.
The other thing that's lost, and people forget this completely, the Russians tried to help us stop the Boston Marathon bombing. We actually did help them stop a terrorist attack in St. Petersburg because we were communicating and exchanging information.
Paul again stated tha, because "people hate Trump so much, all of that is being lost."
Blitzer countered that the hysterical backlash was not a matter of hating the president, but was objective.
"It's a matter of what he did today, what he said today," Blitzer said. "He met with President Putin as you know for more than two hours. Unlike other presidents, especially on foreign soil, he blamed the United States for the bad relationship with Russia. He declined to back his own intelligence community for its assessment. He declined to support the U.S. law enforcement community."
Blitzer added, indignantly: "He continues to call the news media, a free press in the United States, the enemy of the American people. Has any other president in American history done anything like that?"
Paul replied that the intelligence community under Obama had proven to be untrustworthy -- people such as John Brennan, who actually voted for a Communist presidential candidate at the height of the Cold War, and James Clapper, who perjured himself before Congress.
"I’m talking about Dan Coats, I’m talking about Dan Coats, the current director," Blitzer interjected. He kept talking as Paul tried to explain his point.
"Wolf, if you’re going to interrupt me, we can’t really have an interview," he said.
"No, I just want to be precise. It's not Clapper, it’s not Brennan. It’s Dan Coats and Mike Pompeo," Blitzer insisted.
"It does matter who was in charge of the intelligence," Paul continued:
It does matter because they started up this and ginned up this whole thing, have gone after the president saying he’s committed collusion with Russia. No evidence of that and it continues to go on. Who are the people that started this?
James Clapper, who lied to the Senate, said they weren’t collecting our information, and yet they were collecting all of our information and housing it in Utah.
John Brennan has now accused -- let me finish.
John Brennan has now accused the president of treason. This is John Brennan who voted for the Communist party when he was a young man. John Brennan now thinks he's holier than anybody else. But these people had the power to collect every American’s information.
And these are the people that I am concerned used their bias against President Trump, and absolutely I’m with the president on this. The intelligence community was full of biased people including Peter Strzok, Andrew McCabe, and dozens of others.
"And so, and so what about Mike Pompeo and Dan Coats? Who both say there is no doubt that Russia interfered, attacked the United States during the presidential election?" Blitzer countered. "Did they vote for communists when they were young?"
What I would say is I don't think anybody doubts that the Russians got involved with leaking e-mail and hacking into e-mail.
But there is a question of whether or not the election was legitimate, and all of this is a sideways way for those on the Left to try to delegitimize Trump and to say he didn’t really win the election.
When the reality of the election was really about Hillary Clinton being unfit for office, being a dishonest person who enriched ... her and her husband enriched themselves at taxpayers’ expense, and at the expense of receiving money from people like the sultan of Brunei, and Saudi Arabia. So, it was really a much more complicated situation. But what’s happened is everybody now says the Russians, the only reason Trump is president is because of the Russians.
You can see how he would take that personally and, frankly, I don't think anybody from Kentucky -- he got nearly 80 percent of the vote in the mountains, I don't think anybody was influenced at all by anything to do with the Russians. They didn't like Hillary Clinton because she wanted to kill the coal industry in our state.
Bliitzer responded by putting on the screen a graphic showing five Trump administration officials who say that Russia definitely did try to influence the 2016 election.
"But I would put this in perspective, Wolf," Rand argued:
Doug Levine looked at this from the Carnegie Mellon Institute and he looked at it from 1946 to 2000. And he found 81 times that the U.S. involved themselves and meddled in elections of foreign countries, 36 times more than the Soviet Union did.
It doesn't make it right, but I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: any country that can spy, does, and any country that can meddle in foreign elections does. All countries are doing this. But we’ve elevated this to a higher degree and we have made this all about the sour grapes of Hillary Clinton losing the election and it's all about partisan politics now.
This is truly the Trump Derangement Syndrome that motivates all of this.
Blitzer responded by airing Dan Coats' statement disagreeing with Trump:
We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of the national security.
"Go ahead, respond to your former colleague," Blitzer challenged Paul.
I don't disagree with anything that was said there. What I would say instead of making this about ... Trump, and accusing Trump of collusion with the Russians, and all this craziness, that's not true.
We should try to protect the integrity of our elections. Nobody is talking about protecting the integrity of the elections. How would you protect the integrity of the elections? Make sure they're decentralized. Make sure there are very good controls from the precinct on up. Make sure we’re not storing the data in a central area where there aren't checks and balances at the local area. There are a lot of ways to make sure our election is not tampered with.
Also, it’s important when you say the Russians meddled, they hacked into Hillary Clinton's e-mail, and revealed some truths about her that weren’t very popular. I agree they did that. But the thing is is nobody’s alleging that votes were changed, that they got into our electoral system.
Blitzer went on to cite Newt Gingrich as yet another Trump supporter who disagreed with Trump's Russia stance.
"I think people have gotten over the top on this and lost the big picture," Paul replied:
The big picture is that we should be engaged with Russia. We should have conversations with Russia. We have serious conflicts in various parts of the globe. It would be a mistake not to have open lines of communication with them.
And I can tell you what I have told the Russians who were here in the United States when I conversed with them. Hacking into the election if they did it and all likelihood the evidence looks like they did, it has backfired because it's made relations worse. And so, if they want to have better relations, there should be a great deal of incentive as time goes for them not to do it again because it’s made relations so much worse.
And so, my hope is that we will push the issue and that over time those incentives will be apparent.
Senator Paul stuck to his guns Tuesday morning on CBS. He was asked if he was going to do a "clean-up on aisle three" in the wake of Trump's "shameful, disgraceful, shocking" meeting with Vladimir Putin.
Paul again argued that it was a good thing for the president to meet with an adversary.
"Senator, I don't think anybody would object to trying to have a good relationship with Russia," said This Morning host Gayle King. "The problem is he seemed to throw the intelligence community under the bus while doing that."
Paul strongly disagreed with her contention that no one would object to having a good relationship with Russia.
"I think that's incorrect," he told her. "What you just said -- that no one would object to him meeting with Putin. Every Democrat on Capitol Hill objected to him meeting with Putin. Every neoconservative and warmonger on the right also objected to it. So yes, the vast majority of the foreign policy community -- the bipartisan consensus said 'you shouldn't meet with Putin.'"
Paul pointed out that Trump also met with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un -- with good results.
"This is an extraordinary thing about President Trump that should be lauded and not belittled, that he's willing to meet with adversaries to try to prevent us from having World War III."
"You have to understand that we have to deal with the world as it is, not as we wish it to be," he added later. "If we're only going to talk to people who have perfect, constitutional republics, we're going to have a very small audience and we're going to have a lot of potential conflict with no outlet for diplomacy. So no, I think the president did a good thing by meeting with Putin and I think it's a mistake for people to try to turn this into a partisan escapade."
On Tuesday morning, President Trump thanked the senator for defending him: