U.S. Should Emphasize ‘Protecting Ourselves,’ Not the ‘Witch Hunt’

Sen. Rand Paul urges the nation to focus on guarding itself against future Russian election interference

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) urged the U.S. to “spend our time protecting ourselves” from potential election interference in 2018 instead of “having this witch hunt” targeting President Donald Trump, speaking during an interview Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“We have to assume — and if we have proof that [the Russians] did [interfere], which it sounds like we did — we should now spend our time protecting ourselves instead of sort of having this witch hunt on the president,” Paul told CNN’s Jake Tapper.

“If the president was involved, by all means put the information forward. There’s no evidence so far of the president’s involvement at all in this,” Paul said of Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. “I think we need to be done with this, so we can start actually protecting our elections from foreign countries.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into allegations of collusion between Russian officials and Trump campaign members dragged into its second year in May. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced last week that Mueller indicted 12 Russian officials in connection with the 2016 hacking into the computer networks of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).

Trump and Putin will meet Monday in Helsinki, Finland. Trump plans to confront Putin about Russia’s election interference as the two leaders discuss a wide array of issues affecting both nations.

Paul, however, told Tapper he believed the U.S. would “mistake our response” if “we think it’s about accountability from the Russians. They are another country. They are going to spy on us. They do spy on us. They are going to interfere in our elections. We also do the same,” Paul said. “What we need to do is make sure our electoral process is protected.”

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In an apparent jab at his Democratic colleagues, Paul noted that the topics of Russian election interference and the Mueller probe have “gotten partisan” to the point that “we’ve forgotten that, really, the most important thing is the integrity of our election.”

Related: ‘Pretty Silly’ for Trump to Demand Russian Extradition, Bolton Says

“And there are things we can do, and things that I’ve advocated — making sure it’s decentralized all the way down to the precinct level, making sure we don’t store all of the data in one place … There’s a lot of ways we can back up our election,” Paul insisted.

When Tapper asked Paul if he believed Trump should pressure Putin to extradite the 12 Russians Mueller indicted, the senator replied, “I think it would be a moot point. I don’t think Russia is sending anyone back over here for trial.”

The Kentucky senator added, “I think we have to protect ourselves. So, because we waste time saying Putin needs to admit this and apologize, he’s not going to admit that he did it.”

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