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Rand Paul on Chuck Hagel & John Brennan nominations

Friday, February 8, 2013
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HH: Joined now by United States Senator Rand Paul. Senator Paul, welcome back, always a pleasure to talk to you. I wonder if you have reactions to the hearings on Mr. Brennan for CIA, and the continuing controversy over would-be Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel?

RP: Well, you know, with regard to Brennan, and with regard to, I think, the most controversial aspect, which is the drone killings, that I’m all for targeting our enemy. I’m all for killing the enemy. But I am a little concerned about one person or a politician getting to decide who is accused, who’s charged, and without trial, determining their guilt. My preference would actually be, and I think it would come up with somewhat the same result in many of instances, but like with al Awlaki, for months, we had him on a target list. It wasn’t any secret. His dad knew he was on the target list. I’d have tried him for treason. If he didn’t show up, I would have had a trial, but have some judge review it, someone independent of the executive branch. And I think it’d be a much more seemly process. The problem you get into is other than al-Awlaki, we also killed his 16 year old son and his friend, and there’s never really been an explanation of that. It wasn’t in the same drone strike. It was a separate drone strike. Was that an accident? Or did we target the 16 year old boy? Was he a terrorist? Did someone get to adjudicate his guilt? So I’m a little concerned about having the president decide guilt for American citizens.

HH: Would have program lead you to vote against Mr. Brennan, because he’s been intimately involved in it?

RP: I’m concerned about it. And you know, I’m new to this whole process, and I’m stuck not having made completely my mind up on how much prerogative the president gets to choose his cabinet. Part of me leans towards letting a president choose his cabinet. They’re political appointees. I ended up voting for John Kerry, even though I don’t really agree with much of any of his politics, and that means very, very little, if any, of his politics. But I feel him to be an honest person and not, he didn’t perjure himself, that kind of thing. So I think the bar is different for every senator, and I haven’t decided on either Hagel or Brennan yet what I’m going to do. I’m concerned about the continuing information coming out on Hagel.

HH: Let me bring up one piece of information that Ben Shapiro at Breitbart put out today, which is one of the foreign funders behind Senator Hagel that he has not yet disclosed formally is something called Friends Of Hamas. If that is in fact true, Senator, would that lead you to vote against Mr. Hagel?

RP: You know, I saw that information today, also, and that is more and more concerning. With each day, there are new things coming out. So part of me wonders if the nomination continues to go on, and we’ll see how that goes. There are also either some organizations or corporations he’s been involved with that people, Ted Cruz in particular, has been asking are there any foreign contributors. And I think that is important. If you’re going to be in that high level a position in our government, we need to know if you have foreign sponsors, or have had foreign contributors. And I think that is pretty important, because people, that’s something that needs to be known.

HH: Well, let’s stay focused on Friends Of Hamas. Obviously, that would be a support group for a terrorist organization. Can you imagine voting or not filibustering anyone who’d received support from supporters of a terrorist organization?

RP: Like I say, it’s very troubling. And I’ve just seen the press report, so I’m going to have to look at what the response is, what the group is, and that kind of thing. But it is very concerning.

HH: Hamas – what is your opinion of Hamas?

RP: Well you know, I think that Hamas has shown itself not capable of sort of living in peace with Israel. They seem to foment a military reaction, and don’t seem to be able to live in peace with Israel. I do know that Israel did negotiate with them on one occasion for release of the solider, an Israeli soldier who’d been held there, and some say there are discussions between Hamas and Israel. I think that for there to be process for peace, there needs to be a more moderate type of Palestinian government in Gaza, I think, for the peace process to move forward.

HH: I believe Hamas is on our country’s list of terrorist organizations. Do you agree with that assessment?

RP: Yes.

HH: And so given that, I come back around to answering again, asking again, Senator Paul, I don’t know how Senator Hagel’s name can’t be withdrawn if he has received support from an organization, that’s a big if, but just assume that it is for a second, Shapiro a pretty good reporter, he’s got to pull his name. You can’t take money from a terrorist-supporting organization and come before the United States Senate and ask for a vote, can you?

RP: Yeah, I’m very troubled by it, and I think that’s what’s going to, we’re going to find out, is he’s going to have to respond to this. And you know, I think we’ll find out something in the next day or two.

HH: All right, back to drones, the statement that was released, or actually the white paper that was released, it was less a judicial opinion that it was sort of a review of all the authorities. And they are, I wonder your assessment, they’re the same authorities George W. Bush relied on for his use of extraordinary powers as commander-in-chief.

RP: Yeah, and Brennan came out of the Bush administration also. He had a high position in that as well. So no, I would be concerned about this not for partisan reasons. In fact, I’ve written a response that will be published in the next couple of days, and in my response, I say my concern is the same that Madison had about giving power to anyone, is that government’s not always compromised of angels. And I would be opposed to this whether this was a Republican or a Democrat in power, because I think there needs to be some judicial oversight. If the oversight needs to be secret, we have a set up with the FISA court. I think it could be done by the FISA court. But really, I think there needs to be the imprimatur of a judge on deciding to kill an American citizen, because there’s too much danger for when you don’t have an angel in office, when you have somebody in office you might not trust to give that kind of power to kill an American citizen. And like I say, I’m not saying that al-Awlaki wasn’t deserving of being a target. Had I been on a jury, or had I been a federal judge looking at the information, I think I would have voted in favor of, given all the information that I’ve seen. But I think there should be a judge with some oversight. And this doesn’t extend to the battlefield. If you’re in the process of lobbying grenades, and you’re launching a missile or doing things like that, there will be strikes that can be done. But the problem I have is a bunch of lawyers got together and wrote down the President’s thoughts, and they said well, it needs to be an imminent threat, but it doesn’t have to be immediate. So that concerns me a little bit when you only a bunch of lawyers could get together and say imminent means exactly the opposite.

HH: Let me conclude by going one more time back to Secretary Hagel. Is it fair for me to conclude, tell the audience after you’re gone, that Chuck Hagel, in Rand Paul’s view, has to answer the question about whether or not he took money from Friends Of Hamas?

RP: Yes, that he has to, and I am going to wait and see what his answer is to that, and I’ve tried to keep an open mind on this. But I become more and more troubled with each day.

HH: Senator Rand Paul, of Kentucky, always a pleasure, have a great weekend, Senator, stay out of the snow if it reaches down that far.

End of interview.

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