Rand Paul: Senate should apologize to Apple for ‘spectacle’ hearing on taxes

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate passes 6B defense bill This week: House GOP caught in immigration limbo Amendments fuel resentments within Senate GOP MORE (R-Ky.) blasted his colleagues on Tuesday for holding a hearing to examine Apple's methods for avoiding taxes.

"I frankly think the committee should apologize to Apple," Paul said during a hearing of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

Paul said he was offended by the "tone and tenor of the hearing."

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"I'm offended by the spectacle of dragging in executives from an American company that is not doing anything illegal," Paul said.

The subcommittee released a report on Monday that found that Apple has avoided billions of dollars in taxes in recent years through a network of offshore shell companies.

The investigators discovered that three of Apple's subsidiaries in Ireland had no official tax residence, meaning they paid little or no taxes to any government.

Apple CEO Tim Cook and two other top executives will testify before the committee. In prepared testimony, the tech giant denied that it had used “tax gimmicks” or improperly hid assets abroad to avoid paying taxes.

Paul said that Congress is to blame for the convoluted federal tax code.

"Instead of Apple executives, we should have brought in here today a giant mirror," he added.

Paul’s comments were reminiscent of Rep. Joe Barton's (R-Texas) apology to BP for a government "shakedown" following the company's massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

Sen. Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinHow House Republicans scrambled the Russia probe Congress dangerously wields its oversight power in Russia probe The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by CVS Health — Trump’s love-hate relationship with the Senate MORE (D-Mich.), the chairman of the subcommittee, was visibly upset by Paul's statement.

"You're of course free to apologize if you wish, but that's not what this subcommittee is about," Levin shot back.

"Apple's a great company, but no company — no company — should be able to determine how much it's going to pay in taxes, how many profits they're going to keep offshore, how they're going to bring them back home, using all kinds of gimmicks to avoid paying the taxes to this country," Levin said.

He argued that by exploiting tax loopholes, Apple and other corporate giants are forcing the government to slash vital social programs and to increase the tax burden on other businesses.

Paul’s GOP colleague, Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainOvernight Defense: States pull National Guard troops over family separation policy | Senators question pick for Afghan commander | US leaves UN Human Rights Council 13 GOP senators ask administration to pause separation of immigrant families McCain, Coons: Trump should withdraw controversial refugee nominee MORE (R-Ariz.), also defended the Senate inquiry, calling it “offensive” for anyone to accuse Levin of bullying.

This story was last updated at 11:38 a.m.