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Rand Paul on Russia indictments: We should focus on protecting elections instead of 'witch hunt on the president'

Rand Paul on Russia indictments: We should focus on protecting elections instead of 'witch hunt on the president'
© Greg Nash

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOvernight Health Care: 50 million coronavirus vaccines given | Pfizer news | Biden health nominees Rand Paul criticized for questioning of transgender health nominee Haley isolated after Trump fallout MORE (R-Ky.) on Sunday said he believes it’s a “waste of time” to try to hold Russian President Vladimir Putin accountable for meddling in U.S. elections, arguing that the U.S. and other countries have engaged in similar behavior.

Paul appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” less than two days after special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE handed down indictments against 12 Russian intelligence officers for allegedly hacking into U.S. systems during the 2016 election.

“I think 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, they do spy on us, they’re going to interfere in our elections,” Paul said.

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“I think because this has gotten partisan … we’ve forgotten that the most important thing is the integrity of our elections,” Paul continued.

Paul suggested Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election could be a reaction to U.S. involvement in elections in Georgia or Ukraine in the past. He clarified he does not believe the U.S. and Russia are “morally equivalent.”

“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 President TrumpDonald TrumpNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors McCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 MORE requests the extradition of the 12 indicted Russian officials, adding that there's no reason to expect Moscow would agree to it.

"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."

Trump has long railed against Mueller's investigation as a "witch hunt" and a "hoax." The investigation has led to charges against more than 20 Russians, and has implicated four former Trump associates.

The Justice Department handed down indictments on Friday against 12 Russian intelligence officers, alleging they interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections. Mueller charged 11 of the officers with conspiring to hack into the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee networks.

The other officer was charged with conspiring to hack into election systems, including a state elections board website.