Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulWhite House debates vaccines for air travel Senate lawmakers let frustration show with Blinken Rand Paul: 'Hatred for Trump' blocking research into ivermectin as COVID-19 treatment 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) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel 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.
“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 TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default 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.