Interview with Senator Rand Paul

Interview with Senator Rand Paul

By Erin Burnett Outfront - February 13, 2013

BURNETT: And now to the rocky road to the cabinet. Two of President Obama's key nominees are now facing some major hurdles.

So, Senator John McCain says he may filibuster Chuck Hagel's nomination if the president doesn't get more information about the president's actions and orders of the night of the attack of the American consulate in Benghazi. And Senator Rand Paul says he's ready to put a hold on John Brennan's nomination to head the CIA if he doesn't get answers about the use of drones in the United States of America.

Now, that's an issue we talked about last week when I asked the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Republican Congressman Mike Rogers, that very question, whether he could see a time when drones are used against American citizens on American soil.


REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I don't think we'll ever get there. I think it's very, very important to understand that the legal justification for using an airstrike against an enemy, no matter their citizenship, is long standing in this country. They no longer have the benefit of U.S. citizenship to protect them when they're an enemy combatant on foreign land fighting the battle of the United States.


BURNETT: Earlier, I spoke with Rand Paul of Kentucky and I asked him if he thinks Rogers is wrong.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Well, he didn't say no. What I want to hear from John Brennan before I agree to let his nomination go forward, is that no, a CIA or the Department of Defense cannot kill someone in America without, you know, any kind of judicial proceeding. Senator Wyden asked Brennan this. In a committee hearing, he says, can you kill an American on American soil with a drone without a judicial hearing? And Brennan didn't answer the question.

So, we've asked it in writing. My understanding is Senator Wyden has asked this in writing. And we don't have an answer.

So if you're not going to answer no, I think that means you're essentially telling us yes, you believe that the president has the power to kill an American in America. That is appalling, you know? I think even overseas, that if there is someone who's not in the middle of firing a gun or grenade launcher --


PAUL: -- that they really should be tried for treason if they're an American citizen, and then, you know, you can proceed on with drone attacks, but really an American citizen should be tried and adjudicated in court here or abroad unless they're imminently in the act of firing a weapon.

BURNETT: And when it comes to Hagel's nomination. Obviously, John McCain today indicating he may filibuster it, going against what he had said before.

Tom Ricks is a contributing editor for "Foreign Policy" magazine. He was a special military correspondent for "The Washington Post." He's written two books about Iraq, a lot of sources in the Pentagon. And he just wrote this about Chuck Hagel, quote, "His big problem is that no one much wants him running the Pentagon. The prospect of a Hagel regime at DOD is a real problem now because the next secretary of defense will need to do two things, work with Congress to reduce the defense budget and work with the military to reshape the military to make it relevant for future conflict. At the moment, Hagel appears to lack the political capital to do the former and the intellectual appetite to do the latter."

Those are very strong words. Do you think Chuck Hagel can run the Pentagon?

PAUL: You know, my inclination has been, even though I'm a conservative Republican, to give the president the prerogative of deciding who's in his cabinet. I voted for John Kerry even though politically I don't agree with much, if anything, that John Kerry represents as far as a U.S. senator. But I think he's an honest person and I think the president has the right to decide.

With regard to Hagel, my first inclination was to give him the benefit of the doubt. I'm for auditing the Pentagon. I think there is waste to be found. And I think he would be good at rooting that out. I think he's a soldier. He served honorably, was wounded in combat.

But I'm starting to have some doubts, and my doubts are that if you're going to run the Department of Defense, you need to reveal if you've had financing from foreign groups. There's all kinds of rumors all over the Internet about foreign groups that may have provided financing and I think he needs to reveal that.

And so, I am one who's saying, yes, I do need a little more information before making a final decision.

BURNETT: All right. But do you think John McCain is right to filibuster given your point, that you may not like who the president picks, but it is his prerogative whom he chooses to be in his cabinet?

PAUL: Well, I think where we are with Hagel is the same place I am with Brennan. I want more information. If they're not going to give us the information, the only way to get the information is threaten to hold them to a higher standard of 60 votes.

So I think if people are not willing to give you information, for example, by Brennan not saying no, that he won't strike Americans in America, he's essentially saying yes and that is very scary and worrisome to me that you would strike Americans.

Do you realize we do signature strikes now? We don't even name the target of people we kill with drones. If there's a line of traffic coming out of a camp and we think that is populated by people who don't like America, we bomb them.

Well, is that a high enough standard for Americans maybe coming out of a city or an encampment somewhere in the U.S. where they're meeting and saying antigovernment things? Are we going to have signature strikes in America? I mean, it opens Pandora's box once you say, you may well kill Americans in America without any judicial trial, with politicians making the decision. That's very worrisome.

BURNETT: Now, last night, of course, you issued the Tea Party response to the president's State of the Union address, and you took on Democrats, you also took on Republicans.

But I have to ask you this, Senator, because last time around, in 2012, four of the 16 senate candidates that were endorsed by the Tea Party -- four actually won. Is the Tea Party losing steam?

PAUL: We did better in 2010. We didn't do as well, but neither did any Republicans do very well in 2012. So I don't think that's necessarily fair.

I would say there's still a movement, but I still think that the Tea Party gives energy, m to the Republican Party, but it's also equal parts chastisement to equal parts to anybody who promotes big government of deficits. So the Tea Party isn't afraid to tell Republicans you need to spend less money also.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Senator. Always appreciate your time.

PAUL: Thank you.


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