UPDATED: Rand Paul defends Trump’s press conference with Putin hours after announcing trip to Russia

1 day after Paul downplayed Russian election interference and called Robert Mueller's investigation a "witch hunt."

Senator Rand Paul gives a thumbs up to President Donald Trump at the White House on October 12, 2017. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Senator Rand Paul gives a thumbs up to President Donald Trump at the White House on October 12, 2017. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) referred to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt” on Sunday, less than 48 hours after Mueller unveiled indictments against 12 Russian intelligence officials behind a massive cyber attack to affect the outcome of the 2016 U.S. election.

During an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union, Paul criticized Mueller’s probe even though it has already racked up 191 criminal charges against 35 defendants.

“If we have proof that they (Russia) did it, we should spend our time protecting ourselves instead of having this witch hunt on the president. I think we need to be done with this so we can protect our election.”

The Kentucky Senator also became the latest Republican to downplay Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign, saying, “We all do it.”

“We all do it. What we need to do is make sure our electoral process is protected. They (Russia) are not going to admit it in the same way we’re not going to admit we were involved in the Ukrainian elections or the Russian elections.”

Politico’s Eric Geller pointed out that Paul appeared to be “equating public U.S. encouragement of pro-Western movements in Ukraine and Russia with covert, cyber-enabled 2016 election meddling.”


Paul also had sharp words for NATO on the heels of Trump’s unprecedented public rupture with it last week, saying the transatlantic military alliance deserves criticism for provoking Russian aggression.

“Well, what I would say is that there were people – probably the greatest diplomat of the last century was George Kennan, and he did predict that as NATO expanded you would incite militaristic tendencies and nationalism in Russia.”

He also echoed the recent rhetoric of President Donald Trump by attempting to blame Russia’s election interference on President Barack Obama.

“I wish President Obama had been more aggressive in pursuing it.”

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) accused Paul of “working for Vladimir Putin” in a speech on the Senate floor last year.

Update (10:42 a.m.): Paul announced on Monday that he would be visiting Russia in a few weeks “to discuss common ground with their leaders and help prevent further, unnecessary escalation of tensions.”


Update (6:52 p.m.): Paul’s strange behavior resumed after Trump’s disastrous press conference with Putin. First, Paul retweeted a Pizzagate truther who was covering the event.

Paul followed that up by expressing support for Trump’s performance in Finland, which has been criticized by many members of his own party.

Later, Paul attacked former CIA director John Brennan in defense of Trump.

Paul then took his act to CNN’s The Situation Room, where he refused to answer Wolf Blitzer’s question about whether he trusted U.S. intelligence or Putin more despite repeated attempts.

“I’m not discounting the allegations that the Russians hacked into Hillary Clinton’s emails. I’m not discounting that at all.”