HH: Senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas joins me on a grim morning. 22 dead, 60 wounded in Manchester as a terrorist attacks the exiting teeny bopper crowd with their parents. Senator Cotton, we’ve talked on occasions like this before, unfortunately. There will be more in the future. Your reaction to this and to the President’s comment in Saudi Arabia that your souls will be fully condemned, an appeal for religious leaders to make that clear to their followers?
TC: Hugh, good morning. It is a sad morning after another horrific atrocity happening in Manchester last night, particularly appalling that it happened to teenagers and young children. It’s a reminder of the terrorist threat that we all face in the U.K., in the United States, and around the world. I strongly agree with President Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia to Arab Islamic leaders that not only must their governments combat terrorism on their own soil, that they must also stop the radicalization and the funding of terrorism from some of their private citizens and mosques, and the spread of that hateful ideology around the world, and that those leaders need to take responsibility for sharing that exact sentiment with their people, because ultimately, Western leaders, like Donald Trump or Theresa May or anyone else, can try to keep our country safe. But it’s ultimately going to have to be Arab and Islamic leaders like King Salman of Saudi Arabia or President al-Sisi of Egypt that speak to their own people and their own faith and have reform from within their faith.
HH: Senator Cotton, back in your Army days when you were walking platoon in Baghdad slums, you know firsthand what the President said in Saudi Arabia is true that Muslims suffer far more than anybody else in the world at the hands of the jihadists.
TC: Well, the vast majority of people killed by Islamic terrorists are other Muslims. I saw it in 2006 when Shiite and Sunni sects in terrorist organizations were committing atrocities against each other. And of course, the Islamic State’s number one target are other Muslims in Iraq and Syria as well. And while many Muslim terrorists have targeted the United States and targeted the West, we have also fought on behalf of Muslims who have been targeted around the world, whether it’s in Afghanistan or Iraq or Kuwait in 1990, or the Balkans in the 1990s as well. And that’s why we stand united with the countless Muslim victims of Muslim extremism.
HH: Let me ask you domestically, today, the Senate Armed Services Committee will receive testimony from the director of National Intelligence, former Senator Coats, and Lt. General Vincent Stewart, director of the DNI. Will you be asking them about the story in the Post that Director Coats had to decline to get involved in the Russian story at all, Senator Cotton?
TC: Hugh, I’m about fourth or fifth down in the questioning with Democrats in front of me, so I’m very confident that question will be asked before it reaches me. I don’t want to speculate about these anonymously sourced stories, Hugh, many of which are based on triple or even, or sometimes double hearsay at a minimum. As a member of the Intelligence Committee, work on our review is ongoing and will continue, even with the appointment last week of Bob Mueller as a special counsel. And we’ll follow the facts wherever they lead us. But these leaks really need to stop. These leaks are doing no one any good. They’re not doing the public any good. They’re not doing the administration any good. They’re not doing the truth any good, because we have a means to get to the truth, which is now the special counsel standing in the place of the Department of Justice, Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General, and the Senate Intelligence Committee, and we should let those inquiries proceed deliberately and carefully and thoroughly so we can get to the bottom of the matter, and we can move on to the agenda that’s important for the country.
HH: Let me ask you the question that Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein have answered. Have you yet seen any evidence of collusion between the President or anyone in the White House and Russia in the interference with our campaign?
TC: Hugh, I will simply say that Dianne Feinstein, Senator from California, has now said twice on television that she has seen no evidence of collusion or other wrongdoing by Donald Trump or his campaign associates during the campaign last year. And I would also point out that until early January, Senator Feinstein was the senior Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, which means she had access to even more sensitive information than the rank and file members of the Intelligence Committees. That doesn’t mean that nothing happened. That’s why we’re conducting the review. But I have not seen any controversy yet in Washington with so few credible underlying facts of wrongdoing or misconduct.
HH: Senator Tom Cotton, thank you for joining me. I appreciate that clarity. We will talk again soon.
End of interview.