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Rand Paul, the libertarian-leaning senator from Kentucky, explained his vote to confirm former Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to be the next Attorney General of the United States, telling The Washington Post (WaPo) that Democrats chose to attack his character, not his record on the issues.
Sen. Paul’s decision to back the confirmation of now-Attorney General Sessions left many liberty lovers scratching their heads, as Sessions in his past has not been a ally in ending the “War on Drugs,” reducing or eliminating civil asset forfeiture, or reforming the criminal justice system.
“In some ways, the Democrats made it much more certain that I would vote for him by trying to destroy his character,” Paul said Thursday in an interview with WaPo and Roll Call for C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” series. “I think it’s very upsetting that they didn’t choose to go after him on particular issues, like civil asset forfeiture, where they might have been able to persuade someone. They chose to go after a man’s character.”
Paul, the son of former Texas Representative and presidential candidate Ron Paul, was recently re-elected to a second term in the Senate. He has broken from party lines several times to support civil liberties issues such as drug decriminalization and criminal justice reform, often putting himself on the other side of an issue from the man he just confirmed to be the top law official in the US.
In his interview with WaPo, Paul acknowledged that some libertarian goals might be stymied by a Trump administration. “There still will have to be a lot of standing up and saying ‘there is a right to privacy’,” Paul said. “This was a vote where I ended up voting for someone who was a colleague, who I knew.”
This includes the Senator’s opposition to Mike Pompeo, who is now the Director of the CIA, and his vocal opposition to “neoconservative” John Bolton.
Paul has faced harsh backlash from the liberty minds outside of the Senate for his decision, especially following his explanation of his decision through his Facebook page.
The critics weren’t biting.
.@RandPaul So how does a drug war and mass incarceration critic vote for the Senate’s most strident supporter of both … *to run the DOJ.*
— Radley Balko (@radleybalko) February 9, 2017
Rand Paul: I am a libertarian.
Rand Paul: Sessions is death for liberty.
Rand Paul: That lady was mean so VOTE YES!
Rand Paul: FREEDOM! https://t.co/wFtXbYPk34
— David M. Perry (@Lollardfish) February 10, 2017
Uh oh… Rand Paul gonna have to answer about his vote for Jeff Sessions at the Students for Liberty conference next week.
— (((Julie Borowski))) (@JulieBorowski) February 9, 2017
Congratulations, @RandPaul, on being able to walk without a spine. Voted for Jeff Sessions despite the fact Sessions is against his values.
— Thor Benson (@thor_benson) February 9, 2017
— The Hairy Mint (@TrumpsTrouser) February 9, 2017
Reason’s Matt Welch did offer some insight by citing Paul’s strategist Doug Stafford, who said of Paul’s opposition to the confirmation of Loretta Lynch that “there was hope that her views on asset forfeiture and other areas of concern conflicted enough with those of the more reform-friendly Obama that her potential replacement could conceivably be better.” With Sessions, Paul did not see the same opportunity.
Paul continued to insist that his vote was forced by the personal attacks on Session’s character, citing Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s reading of a Coretta Scott King letter to highlight alleged racism from Sessions.
“The thing is, I’ve seen pictures of him marching for voting rights with [congressman] John Lewis,” Paul said of Sessions. “He is for voting rights. There are things no one wants attached to their character, no person that I know wants to be called racist, or that you’re trying to prevent someone to vote.”
Paul also made clear to WaPo that he hasn’t given up the battle on civil asset forfeiture, or his potential influence on the White House, saying, “There was a discussion in the White House the other day about civil asset forfeiture. I think civil asset forfeiture is a terrible idea. I’d like to have that discussion with the president.”
In the tweet below, you can see part of Sen. Paul’s interview with WaPo’s Dave Weigel about his vote.
— CSPAN (@cspan) February 9, 2017
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