Sen. Rand Paul on Election Interference: 'We All Do It'

Susan Jones | July 16, 2018 | 6:08am EDT
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Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) (Photo: Screen capture/C-SPAN)

( - Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said today's Trump-Putim summit in Helsinki is not about holding Russia accountable for its cyber-hacking and election interference.

"I think really we mistake our response if we think it's about accountability from the Russians," Paul told CNN's "State of the Union."

They are another country. They are going to spy on us. The do spy on us. They are going to interfere in our elections. We also do the same. Doug Levin at Carnegie Mellon studied this over about a 50-year period in the last century and found 81 times that the U.S. interfered in other country's elections. So we all do it.

What we need to do is make sure our electoral process is protected. And I think because this has gotten partisan and it's all about partisan politics, we've forgotten that really the most important thing is the integrity of our election.

And there are things we can do and things that I've advocated. Making sure it's decentralized all the way down to the precinct level. Making sure we don't store all of the data in one place even for a state and that there's a backup way that someone in the precinct can say 2,000 people signed in. This was the vote tally I sent to headquarters. There's a lot of ways we can back up our election -- advertising and things like that.

It's tricky. Can we restrict the Russians? We might be able to in some ways but I think in the bottom line we wanted the Russians to admit it. They are not going to admit it the same way we're not going to admit that we were involved in the Ukrainian elections, or in the Russian elections.

So all countries that can spy do; all countries that want to interfere in elections and have the ability to, they try.

Host Jake Tapper asked Paul if President Trump should ask Vladimir Putin to extradite the 12 Russian military officers indicted Friday on suspicion of attacking the DNC and other Democratic organizations, going after Hillary Clinton's e-mails, and also attempting to break into state election boards.

"I think it would be a moot point," Paul responded. "I don't think Russia is sending anyone back over here for trial. The same way we wouldn't send anybody over there for trial. No country with any sovereignty or sense of sovereignty is sending anybody to another country for trial.

"I think we have to protect ourselves. So because we waste time saying Putin needs to admit this and apologize, he's not going to admit that he did it. And we can't take...on face value anything they tell us. We have to assum,e and if we have proof that they did it, which it sounds like we did, we should now spend our time protecting ourself instead of sort of having this witch hunt on the President.

"If the President was involved by all means put the information forward. There's no evidence so far of the President's involvement at all in this. So I think we need to be done with this so we can start actually protecting our elections from foreign countries."

Paul said indicting the 12 Russian military officers is a "good thing," but he said the Justice Department could have gotten to the bottom of it, without the appointment of a special counsel.

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