Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., defended President Donald Trump against aggressive questioning by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer regarding the U.S. leader’s joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday.
On his program Monday night, Blitzer accused Trump of blaming the United States for the current bad relations with Russia and declining to back the American intelligence community and Department of Justice during the joint media event.
When asked if he would denounce Putin, Trump said, “I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today and what he did is an incredible offer.”
Several lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have criticized Trump for accepting Putin’s denial of Russian interference in the 2016 election despite the intelligence community and special counsel Robert Mueller’s assessment that Russia did interfere.
Paul told Blitzer that Trump’s comments need to be put in the context of the ongoing Russia investigation.
“All of this is a sideways way to try to delegitimize Trump and say he really didn’t win the election when the election was really about Hillary Clinton being unfit for office,” he said.
The Kentucky senator noted the role former Obama administration CIA director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper played in launching the Russian investigation, which targeted the Trump campaign during the 2016 race.
“These are the people that I am concerned used their bias against President Trump,” Paul said. “Absolutely, I’m with the president on this. The intelligence community was full of biased people including Peter Strzok, Lisa Page and dozens of others.”
On Tuesday, Paul was pressed by “CBS This Morning” host John Dickerson about Trump’s failure to make the moral case against Putin during the news conference.
“I don’t think you’re being fair to the president,” the lawmaker said. “So when President Reagan met with Gorbachev, do you think he listed the litany of Soviet abuses from Stalin on in a one-to-one meeting?”
Sen. Rand Paul Paul says that President Trump "did a good thing" by meeting with Putin and warned his colleagues that it was a "mistake" to "try to turn this into a partisan escapade." https://t.co/GgXmry0YN1 pic.twitter.com/HV7oMgQ1fU
— CBS News (@CBSNews) July 17, 2018
Dickerson followed up noting that Reagan used strong rhetoric toward the Soviet Union such as calling it the “evil empire.”
“Reagan didn’t call it an evil empire in a press conference with Gorbachev,” Paul replied.
The senator went on to argue that Trump’s reluctance to criticize Russia’s alleged interference has to do with the Mueller investigation.
“The president has undergone an onslaught of a year, year-and-a-half of a partisan investigation accusing him of somehow colluding with the Russians,” Paul stated. “So, I think he’s sensitive to that.”
Paul added that there is a legitimate and partisan aspect to the investigation. As on Blitzer’s program, he highlighted Brennan and Clapper’s roles in launching the Russia probe “at the behest of the Clinton campaign” using information contained in the so-called dossier paid for by Trump’s rival and the Democratic National Committee.
“It’s funny we keep talking about Trump and Russia when in fact the only person known to pay Russian agents was Hillary Clinton,” he said.
Trump thanked Paul for coming to his defense in a Tuesday morning tweet.
Thank you @RandPaul. “The President has gone through a year and a half of totally partisan investigations – what’s he supposed to think?”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 17, 2018
In a separate tweet, the president also dinged the “fake news” for its coverage of the summit and his European trip in general.
“While I had a great meeting with NATO, raising vast amounts of money, I had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia. Sadly, it is not being reported that way – the Fake News is going Crazy!”
In clarifying remarks regarding Russian interference from the White House on Tuesday Trump said, “I have full faith and support for America’s great intelligence agencies, always have.”
Trump: “Let me be totally clear, and I’ve said this many times, I accept our intelligence communities’ conclusion that Russia’s meddling took place. Could be other people also” #tictocnews pic.twitter.com/tpI4si1kIB
— QuickTake by Bloomberg (@QuickTake) July 17, 2018
He added, “Russia’s actions had no impact on the outcome of the election. Let me be clear. I accept our interest community conclusion that meddling took place. There was no collusion at all.”
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