Editorials

Rand Paul talks like this Trump-Russia thing is normal. It’s not.

Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin after their summit in Helsinki.
Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin after their summit in Helsinki. AP

If Sen. Rand Paul has evidence that the United States has tampered with other countries’ election infrastructure or voter records, he should make what he knows public and convene congressional hearings on what would be a very serious allegation.

Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Paul insisted that he is not equating U.S. efforts to influence elections in other countries with Russia’s hacking of our 2016 election, which, according to a federal indictment handed down last week, included the infiltration of state election boards and secretaries of state.

Yet Paul did equate them. “They’re going to interfere in our elections, we also do the same,” he said. Russia will never admit its interference in our election, Paul said, “the same we’re not going to admit we were involved in the Ukrainian elections or in the Russian elections.”

Doesn’t that sound like Paul has information the rest of us should hear?

Paul asserted that the Russian military’s theft of information about 500,000 U.S. voters was just a predictable reaction to earlier U.S. actions and that the Russians blame interference by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for protests against Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2012.

So, in Paul’s view, calling out a dictatorial regime for tampering with balloting is the same as a dictatorial regime tampering with another country’s balloting.

President Donald Trump responded Tuesday with an “‘atta boy” tweet for Paul, who had decried the investigation that is documenting Russia’s interference as a “witch hunt on the president,” although Paul did not dispute any of the allegations in the indictment against 12 Russian military intelligence officers.

We’re certainly not suggesting that the U.S.’s hands have always been clean. From the CIA-backed overthrow of an elected government in Iran in 1953 to illegal arms sales to Iran in the 1980s to finance a terror campaign to overthrow Nicaragua’s elected government, the U.S. has interfered in other countries’ attempts at self-government when they were at odds with U.S. military or economic goals.

Congress has often exposed and detailed those clandestine misdeeds.

The U.S. also engages in more positive ways, by supporting pro-democracy parties and candidates and democracy-building efforts.

If U.S. efforts have crossed the line into blanketing another country in electronic lies, via social media, the U.S. public needs to know, because that is wrong. And that is what Russia did to the U.S. in 2016.

On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, like Paul, a Kentucky Republican, equated Voice of America and Radio Free Europe with Russia’s interference in our election. If Massie is correct, which he is not, Congress should disband them both. 

Paul and Massie also engaged in straw-man illogic by suggesting that those questioning Trump’s recent performance in Europe opposed U.S. dialogue with Russia or Trump meeting Putin.

What alarms people, in the U.S. and around the world, is Trump’s disdain for our closest allies while he heaps praise on a brutal dictator who tried to help him become president.

To suggest that is just a normal political shift, as Paul and Massie are doing, is missing the point, big league.

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