Rand Paul, just back from Russia, meets Donald Trump aboard Air Force One

Having just recently returned from Russia, Republican Senator Rand Paul was seen boarding Air Force One today in Morristown, New Jersey with Donald Trump. Given that, during the campaign, Trump had referred to Paul as “a spoiled brat without a properly functioning brain,” and that the Senator from Kentucky had countered by calling Trump “delusional,” and less qualified than “a speck of dirt” to be president, this, I’m sure, may be shocking to some. The truth, however, is that Paul has emerged as one of Donald Trump’s most loyal defenders since the election, especially on issues relating to Russia. [It’s funny how Russia keeps coming up, isn’t it?]

When Donald Trump traveled to Iceland a month ago to meet in private with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, causing an uproar among leaders of both parties, Paul was one of the few in Congress to come forward to praise the President. And he’s spoken out against the Mueller investigation on several occasions, attributing it to what he calls “Trump derangement syndrome,” and saying that “special prosecutors have too much power and that we really shouldn’t have them.” And, as we now know, when he left for Russia about nine days ago, Paul carried with him a letter, written by Donald Trump, to give to Putin’s representatives upon landing.

So, just to recap, Donald Trump went to meet with Putin about four weeks ago, over the objections of the intelligence community, who are unanimous in their belief that the Kremlin not only interfered in the 2016 election, but are preparing to do so again during the midterms. And, since this private meeting between Trump and Putin, during which no other U.S. officials were allowed to be present, several Congressional Republicans have traveled to the Kremlin, for reasons that aren’t terribly clear. And the most recent elected official to do so was Rand Paul, who came back talking about how we needed to lift sanctions against some of Russia’s most powerful leaders. And, today, he traveled with Donald Trump aboard Air Force One, where they no doubt discussed Paul’s meetings with Kremlin officials.

I’m not suggesting that Rand Paul is being used as a courier between Trump and Putin, but, when you look objectively at the facts, it’s not difficult to see why people might think that something odd is going on, going so far as to wonder if, back in in 2016, when the Russians hacked the accounts of both Democrats and Republicans, the Kremlin may have found something to use against the Senator. [Some on the left, perhaps inspired by the insanity of QAnon, are even speculating that the Senator’s beating outside his home a few months ago may be related.]

Personally, I think it’s just as likely that Paul isn’t being blackmailed, but merely likes what Putin, as the global poster boy for the white, christian ethnostate, is doing, and sees an opportunity through Trump to enact cruel, racist and authoritarian policies that otherwise never would have passed through Congress.

I don’t think, in the whole scheme of things, it really matters what Paul’s motivation is… whether he’s been blackmailed into assisting the Kremlin, or whether he’s doing it of his own free will. What matters is that, as John McCain said not too long ago on the floor of the Senate, “The Senator from Kentucky is now working for Vladimir Putin.” And we need to stop it.

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  1. Meta
    Posted August 20, 2018 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Washington Times: “Rep. Dana Rohrabacher recruits Rand Paul in bid to arrange Trump meeting regarding WikiLeaks”

    Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, said he’s asked a Senate colleague for help reaching President Trump in hopes of having the White House hear a recap of his recent meeting with WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, including details allegedly absolving Russia of providing the antisecrecy website with leaked Democratic National Committee emails during last year’s election.

    Mr. Rohrabacher met Thursday with Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, to discuss leveraging the latter’s relationship with Mr. Trump in order to once and for all discuss the details of the congressman’s August visit to Mr. Assange inside London’s Ecuadorian Embassy, The Daily Caller reported Tuesday.

    Read more:

  2. Meta
    Posted August 20, 2018 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Former House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy caught on tape in 2016, during a private conversation on Capitol Hill with his fellow GOP leaders:

    “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.”

    Read more:

  3. Meta
    Posted August 20, 2018 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    The New Yorker on the role Assanage played on behalf of Russia.

    When did Russian intelligence give WikiLeaks the e-mails that it hacked from the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, and how did it transmit them? Shortly after the election, James Clapper, then the director of National Intelligence, testified before Congress that American intelligence officials could not clearly pinpoint these facts. “We don’t have good insight into the sequencing of the releases, or when the data may have been provided,” he said. Today, almost two years later, and after months of investigation, we know a lot more than we once did. But our insight into the timing—at least from publicly available information—remains uncertain.

    The latest indictment issued by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, charged twelve members of the G.R.U., Russia’s military-intelligence directorate, with hacking and disseminating Democratic e-mails and other files during the election. It is a highly detailed document, in many ways remarkable. In it, we learn, for instance, that Western intelligence officers had penetrated the G.R.U. so thoroughly that they could track the keystrokes of individual Russian operatives at their desks in a Moscow building. We learn that these G.R.U. staff members essentially Googled vulnerabilities in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee before hacking into it. We learn that, from within the D.C.C.C., the G.R.U. hackers moved into the D.N.C. We learn that D.N.C. data were relayed to an American server in Illinois as they were being exfiltrated. We learn that G.R.U. officers used cryptocurrency to pay people around the world to provide things that the operation required—domain names, access to virtual private networks (V.P.N.s). The indictment may only be an accusation, but it hints at the remarkably granular forensic intelligence that has been gathered.

    The over-all picture that the indictment offers of the “WikiLeaks connection,” as Clapper once put it, is entirely consistent with previous intelligence assessments, which said that the G.R.U. provided Julian Assange, the editor of WikiLeaks, with the D.N.C. and Podesta archives. But, at the level of evidence, the indictment offers a strange mix: tantalizing, fragmentary new details that suggest the when and how without quite revealing everything that happened.

    Read more:

  4. Kim
    Posted August 20, 2018 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Rand Paul was also the person who suggested to Donald Trump that they revoke the security clearance of John Brennan.

  5. Julia Davis by proxy
    Posted August 20, 2018 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    It was Rand Paul who proposed stripping anyone who dares to call Trump’s actions “treasonous” of their security clearance, while Rand is actively cozying up to the Russians. It may have been Trump’s decision, but whose IDEA was it to begin with? #Russia


  6. Eel
    Posted August 20, 2018 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    I wound’t be at all surprised during season three of this series that both Lindsay Graham and Rand Paul had been coerced into service by Putin.

  7. wobblie
    Posted August 20, 2018 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    We are coming up on the 17th anniversary of our invasion of Afghanistan (in case you missed it, we are currently loosing as the Taliban carries out its summer offensive and our drug/war lord allies turn and run). Think about this for a second. If we still had a draft, kids who were less than one when the war started would be registering–but since we rely upon an economic draft who cares? All you liberals out there screaming at the Russians because our “Intelligence community” says they are the bad guys, never learn. How many war criminals are our “intelligence community” protecting?

    G. Bush did say this was going to be a generational conflict-seems like we are almost there-Trump did run as a peace candidate. Though like everything else about him, that too was a fraud.

  8. wobblie
    Posted August 20, 2018 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    Republicans may not turn on Trump, but plenty of them are running away from him.

  9. Demetrius
    Posted August 20, 2018 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    Paul: “Hello, Mr. President. As you requested, here’s the master copy of the pee-pee tape, direct from Putin’s vault.”

    Trump: “Excellent, Rand … good work! As I promised, I will now appoint you to be Vice President in my second, third, and fourth terms … just as soon as I dump that low-energy Pence …”

    Paul: “Praise be to Ayn!”

  10. Fox News
    Posted August 20, 2018 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    Rand Paul on Fox News today: “James @Comey has so tarnished the reputation of the @FBI that most people would think, ‘Well, gosh, if I go in and maybe that they hate President Trump and because I’m a Republican they’re going to hate me, too.'”

  11. Me
    Posted August 21, 2018 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    Speaking of Russian hacks against Republicans for the purposes of blackmail, did you see this in today’s NYT?

    “The Russian military intelligence unit that sought to influence the 2016 election appears to have a new target: conservative American think tanks that have broken with President Trump and are seeking continued sanctions against Moscow, exposing oligarchs or pressing for human rights.”

  12. Meta
    Posted August 21, 2018 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    The Weekly Standard: “Rand Paul, Russian Stooge”

    enator Rand Paul has been making the rounds in recent days touting deeper U.S. engagement with Vladimir Putin’s Russia. It’s often the case when Senator Paul talks about foreign policy his pronouncements are a curious admixture of odd conspiracy theories, pacifist banalities, and ahistorical analogies—all delivered with the confident condescension of someone who doesn’t have any idea what he’s talking about.

    So it is with Paul’s lonely effort to provide intellectual backing for Donald Trump’s instinctive desire to make nice with the increasingly provocative regime run by the anti-American former KGB agent. Examples of Paul’s foolishness are legion but the most revealing came in an interview that the senator conducted on August 16, 2018, with The Liberty Report, an internet television show hosted by his father, libertarian gadfly and former congressman Ron Paul.

    Senator Paul has lately made a cause of conciliation by concession—seeking to reverse sanctions on Russian lawmakers, blocking proposed sanctions on Russian oil interests, and more broadly, preventing punitive measures on Putin’s Russia in favor of dialogue and conversation. These efforts build on his past work downplaying Putin’s aggression and attacking those who highlight it.

    In late February 2014, with Russian troops on “high alert” and amassed on the border with Ukraine, Paul spoke out not against the Russian strongman who’d put them there, but against conservatives who warned about Putin’s expansionism and the possibility of an imminent invasion. “Some on our side are so stuck in the Cold War era that they want to tweak Russia all the time and I don’t think that is a good idea,” he said. For good measure, he echoed Russian propaganda messaging at the time, that “Ukraine has a long history of being, you know, either part of the Soviet Union or within that sphere—common language, etcetera, so I don’t think it behooves us to tell the Ukraine what to do.”

    Is it any wonder, then, that Senator Paul was welcomed with open arms by Putin’s allies on his recent trip to Russia? Not really. But Paul nonetheless sounded surprised when he told his father he’d been “lucky enough to get meetings” with Russian lawmakers. Paul reported that while he doesn’t take everything he’s told as the unalloyed truth, he found that Russian legislators “are more open to dialogue and do want to meet and do want better relations with the United States.” He told his father that his travels in Russia made clear to him that while most Russians today might not find things perfect, they prefer life under Vladimir Putin to the old Soviet Union and the “difficult time” of the “crazy, Wild West” 1990s that followed the dissolution of the Soviet bloc.

    Senator Paul recounted for his father a meeting he’d had with the head of the Libertarian Party of Russia who, the younger Paul reported, “has been getting crowds of 10-, 20-, 30,000 people to show up” to hear the libertarian message in Russia. “It’s not perfect, he’s not allowed on the ballot there,” Senator Paul explained, but “at least he was able to speak with us while we were there.”

    “It’s not perfect” might qualify as an understatement, as Putin’s government rather routinely targets for assassination, at home and abroad, his political opponents, real and perceived. Maybe such understatement is part of Paul’s determined effort to avoid tweaking Russia all the time.

    Paul acknowledges that Russia “probably” interfered with the 2016 presidential election, but he downplays this meddling as inconsequential while offering the kind of absurd framing for which Kentucky’s junior senator has become famous. “Do I think that they probably hacked into Hillary Clinton’s emails? Yes. But they are never, ever going to admit to that. But if I were to weigh hacking into Hillary Clinton’s emails with nuclear war, they sort of pale in comparison.”

    Either we let Russia’s hacking slide or we have nuclear war. It’s the kind of logic that leads to arguments like the one Paul offers as a follow-up.

    In rapid succession, the senator says that a) sanctions on Russia haven’t done any good and poison relations, b) the reaction to Russian meddling in our elections, including the sanctions, have made clear to them that their continued meddling in our elections would harm US-Russia relations, and, c) sanctions on Russia will have the opposite of their intended effect. (You can listen to the entire interview here. This argument from 11:45 to 13:25.)

    “You can try to put sanctions on Russia and punish them but their response is to become more firm in their resolve not to do something,” Paul explained. “Like election meddling: In all likelihood, yes, Russia probably did hack into Hillary Clinton’s emails. I don’t think they expected the reaction in our country or how big a deal it would become. But I think they’re seeing now that if they did this, it’s backfired on them.”

    Read more:

  13. John Brown
    Posted August 21, 2018 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    Let’s conduct the mass treason trials – then promptly line these traitor bastards up for the firing squad. Make America America Again.

  14. C.H.
    Posted August 24, 2018 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Lindsey Graham said that he was hacked by the Russians, which might explain his behavior. My guess is that Paul was hacked as well, although he always has had a boner for the Kremlin. His dad too.


  15. Jcp2
    Posted August 25, 2018 at 5:09 am | Permalink

    Libertarians for Putin is like vegetarians for lamb chops.

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