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 PaulConservatives left frustrated as Congress passes big spending bills Senate approves 4B spending bill Some employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report 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 Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

“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 John TrumpTrump rallies in Nevada amid Supreme Court flurry: 'We're gonna get Brett' Trump: 'Good news' that Obama is campaigning again Trump boosts Heller, hammers 'Wacky Jacky' opponent in Nevada 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.