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Public Statements

CNN "Newsroom" - Transcript -Budget

Interview

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SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: And it's important that the president realized that he's restrained by the Constitution also. So we got talking about something we were interested in and you never know whether people are watching or not, but you want the issue to be big because we want the president to respond. And what we're hearing from the White House this morning is they may respond to my question. And if we do, we're willing to let the Brennan nomination go forward.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And talk more about that. When you said you heard from the White House, who and what did they say?

PAUL: I don't actually have the name of who, but somebody on my staff and other Republican staff are talking to the White House. And I'm hoping there will be a response.

I've never really doubted that maybe the president and I are on the same page, but some things need to be explicit. And the one thing that I think needs to be explicit is that this drone killing or targeting program, that you can't target Americans who aren't engaged in combat. We've never questioned that if you have a grenade launcher on your back and you're attacking the Capitol, you can be killed without due process. I'm not against that.

What I'm against is that if they think maybe for my political beliefs that I might be an anti-government person and I'm having dinner with something or maybe I e-mail a cousin of mine who lives in the Middle East, that's not enough to be killed. That's enough to say, let's make an accusation and you have a trial. That's the way our country works.

I think the president believes in that, but he needs to be explicit and we've asked the attorney general and they haven't been explicit. They've just talked about exceptions to the rule. We want to know what the rule is. Are you going to kill Americans in America who are not engaged in combat.

BASH: Right, because they have argued that they have given you an answer, but perhaps it's not the answer that you've been looking for. So when you say explicit, how explicit -- what's the answer you're looking for?

PAUL: The very specific question we're asking is, does the president believe he has the authority to kill Americans who are not engaged in combat in America with targeted drone strikes. And I think the answer is no, but they haven't given us that answer. They've given us things like, if planes are attacking the Twin Towers. Well, we all believe that that military -- I mean Republican and Democrat, that the military or anyone can repulse an active attack by an individual or a military or a plane or anything, whether it's an American or not.

What we're talking about is the drone program overseas now often targets people who aren't engaged in combat. They're sitting at home in their house. And that's another debate for another day. But that's the kind of standard we're using overseas. And the president won't answer. He says, well, I might use a stand that -- inside the country different than outside, which alarms us because it means he's already thinking of a standard for killing Americans in the U.S.

BASH: One of the things about this -- about this issue is that it's made for strange bedfellows. You had a Democrat, Ron Wyden, standing with you. But you also don't have all conservatives with you. "The Wall Street Journal," which is known as a very prominent, conservative editorial page, really took after you this morning, saying that you were -- had great theatre, but you're just wrong on the issue because that the U.S. government cannot randomly target American citizens on U.S. soil or anywhere else. What it can do under the laws of war is target an enemy combatant anywhere at any time, including U.S. soil.

PAUL: "The Wall Street Journal's" right on a lot of issues, and they're wrong on this issue. The problem is, is if -- if I call you an enemy combatant, how do we know if you are or aren't? That's just me calling you and accusing you of a crime. Should there be enough power by any politician, Republican or Democrat, to just say, you're an enemy combatant and a hell fire missile drops on your house? That's what they're saying. And I -- with every fiber of my body believe that that is unjust and unconstitutional. That if you are an American on our soil, people can't just accuse you and call you a name. They're just assuming that the person calling your name is omniscient and knows you are guilty of that.

But the way I see it is, look, you know, we have a lot of Arab Americans who live in Dearborn, Michigan. And I think the vast majority, if not almost all of them, are good, American people. But let's say they have a cousin in the Middle East and they e-mail them. Let's say somebody thinks their cousin in the Middle East is a terrorist. Well, for goodness sakes, would you just drop bombs on people in Dearborn and say, well, we think he's associated with terrorism, he's an enemy combatant? Well, that's a lot different than someone with a grenade launcher on their shoulder attacking someone. That's an enemy combatant. But the people that they've been targeting overseas aren't always using weapons. So I don't want that kind of standard in our country.

BASH: What if it's an eminent threat?

PAUL: Eminent threat, no problem. If you're attacking -- there has to be an eminent threat, and this is part of the problem. The president said imminent doesn't have to mean immediate. That's very troublesome to me. If someone's attacking a Capitol with a grenade launcher, that's an imminent threat. If someone's carrying a bomb into a building and getting ready to set it off, that's it. If someone's assembling a bomb, that could be an imminent threat too. But if you're sitting in a cafe and you're e-mailing a friend in the Middle East, that's not an imminent threat.

And the other thing in our country is, if you're not involved actively in combat, wouldn't you rather capture them and ask questions about who they are talking to and investigate it? But really it's about the belief that justice, innocence or guilt, should be determined by a jury of your peers. That's what we've fought for. That's what our soldiers are fighting for. And, to me, it's disappointing that they would be overseas risking their lives to fight for something that we're willing to give up on so easily.

BASH: Yesterday, you talked for a very long time and you've had a lot of things to say yesterday into last night. One of the things that you said was, you were talking about 9/11 and you were using the example of the hijackers and you said that you thought maybe they hijackers were citizens. Did you -- did you mean U.S. citizens? Did you--

PAUL: Well, there were 19 hijackers. A lot of them were here on student visas. I'm almost positive I've read somewhere -- and I don't -- it's hard to be authoritative, but I'm not positive, but I thought I read somewhere that some of them were -- had voting cards. And to have a voting card, you would have to be a citizen. And I never read that they were citizens, but I read somewhere the other day. And so that -- I may have misspoke, but I thought I had read somewhere that some of them had voting cards. And I don't know how they would have voting cards if they weren't citizens.

BASH: Let me ask -- let me ask more of your -- of the personal questions here. We talked a little bit about the fact that you were eating on TV. Eating in front of the senators. You ended at saying effectively that nature was calling.

PAUL: Right.

BASH: Is that why you ended it, because you had to go?

PAUL: That and -- that and -- yes.

BASH: When you gotta go, you gotta go.

PAUL: Yes, 12 hours is a long time not to go to the restroom. And so, yes, it does limit you. And I asked, how did Strom Thurman go 24-hours and apparently there are stories that he was bending the rules a little bit.

BASH: Bending the rules how?

PAUL: By leaving the floor very -- briefly leaving the floor.

BASH: Oh, OK. I'm glad that was your answer. I'm glad that was your answer.

But did you go in -- when you went in at 11:47 a.m., did you say, I'm going to be here until after midnight? What did you -- what was you plan? PAUL: No. As I drove up in the morning, I was with a staff member and I said, if we have a chance, why don't we maybe try to capture the floor to make our point. We had no plan and I had the wrong shoes on. My feet were hurting the whole day. And we really didn't plan it out. We had thought about, if it is -- that this issue is important enough that we'd like to do it sometime. But the floor is controlled by the leadership and it's not often left open where someone can sort of capture the floor and begin to speak. So one of the reason filibusters don't occur is because they carefully guard the floor from letting it happen. And it was left unguarded and so I decided to speak.

BASH: I did notice that you had water there and you -- I don't know if it was intentional --

PAUL: I didn't drink very often.

BASH: You were trying not to drink it. That was intentional.

PAUL: I -- yes, I decided to drink very little water and have no caffeine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Testing one, two, three. Testing one, two, three.

BASH: And, senator, we're actually on the air right now.

BALDWIN: We hear you, senator. BASH: Live TV. It's always fun.

PAUL: Great. Yes, that's a good test.

BASH: We just showed the senator. He just actually saw this letter from Eric Holder moments ago. We watched it happen. His aide finally got it and sent -- and gave it to him.

Senator, it's literally three sentences long and he says that the answer to your question about can Americans be killed on U.S. soil, and the answer is no. Are you satisfied?

PAUL: I'm quite happy with the answer and I'm disappointed it took a month and a half and a root canal to get it, but we did get the answer. And that's what I've been asking all along. And it really is what the Senate should be about, advise and consent and find out what policies are. I have a feeling, since this was so difficult, that I never would have gotten this with routine letters to the White House. So through the advise and consent process, I've gotten an important answer. This means that if you live in America, your Fifth Amendment isn't something that's optional. If someone wants to arrest you, if you're not involved in combat in our country, what he's saying now publically is, no president -- so -- because I think the words bind everyone, not just this president, but it's the understanding of the presidency that they can't kill people without some kind of due process.

BASH: So just to be clear, you're announcing right here on CNN that you are going to let John Brennan's nomination now go through? Maybe they could even hold a vote today?

PAUL: Yes. We'll hold it as soon as people want to now. Really, the whole thing is not just to be spiteful to hold up things. Sometimes people get the misimpression that, oh, you're doing things just because you don't like the president. I've actually voted for several of the president's nominees.

BASH: Including Chuck Hagel.

PAUL: Including Chuck Hagel. But I've asked for information, which I think is this give-and-take of trying to get information, which is important. But I think letting the vote go really is inconsequential. I won't make people wait till Saturday. If I hadn't got an answer, I might. But the thing is, is that you use the leverage of your position and the procedures up here, I think, for a greater good. So a lot of people complained, oh, obstructionism. Well, this is an example, I think, of trying to do something you really strongly believe in, but a lot of Americans sent us letters and e-mails and Twitter, people were excited that we were standing up for something that's important to a lot of people.

BASH: You know I just -- as you were coming over here, right after you saw this letter, I saw some people coming up to get your autograph. I mean, no offense, politicians generally don't get their autographs asked for.

PAUL: Well, what was cool was it was the congressional record.

BASH: Oh, from yesterday.

PAUL: So it was the congressional record from yesterday. It was pretty big. I can't imagine the whole thing was me.

BASH: I think it was.

PAUL: But somebody said the budget was in there too.

BASH: It might have been. It might have been.

And just one other thing. Earlier on the floor, I'm not sure if you were able to hear your Republican colleagues John McCain and Lindsay Graham really going off on --

PAUL: Right.

BASH: A position on this. You know, the point they were making is that maybe you have long held this position when it comes to civil liberties versus maybe the more hawkish angle side of your party, like McCain and Graham, but that other who were sort of late to the game last night maybe are doing it for more political reasons. Maybe even your senior senator from Kentucky.

PAUL: You know, I think they're mistaken to be dismissive of this fight. It was a fight really for Fifth Amendment protections. That no one should be arrested in our country under arbitrary changes. And this is really the problem with their position. Their position is that the whole world is a battlefield, including America, and that the laws of war apply to America. In war you don't get due process. And if you're in Afghanistan, you're American and shooting at our soldiers, they can shoot you. They don't ask for a warrant. But in our country, you do have due process. So our country isn't a battlefield with no laws. In fact, our soldiers are sent to Afghanistan to fight for our Bill of Rights and fight for our Constitution. So when they're dismissive of these rules and protections here, I think they're missing what the public is really interested in.

BASH: One last question. What are you going to do when it comes to John Brennan. I know you're going to allow this vote to go through procedurally.

PAUL: Right.

BASH: Will you vote for him like you did for Chuck Hagel and John Kerry?

PAUL: You know, that's still a debate in my mind. Nobody quite understands it if I do that because I fought so long and fought for 13 hours. And I haven't fully made up my mind.

BASH: So you might vote for him?

PAUL: Well, you know, we're still -- I'm still thinking about it and talking about it with staff because the thing is, is, I was fighting hard for this information.

BASH: Right.

PAUL: I was fighting hard for a constitutional protection and get admission from the White House that they will obey the Constitution. So I kind of won my battle.

Now, there is some debate over whether Brennan should be heading the CIA since he's been in charge of this program, that I do have some fault with this program. But then the question becomes, it's a presidential appointee and it's --

BASH: And you've long said that presidents should get the people they want.

PAUL: Some deference. So there's a question of what rises to a level where you oppose a nomination.

Now, there is some question whether or not what are the full opinions of Brennan concerning the drone program here and abroad that I'm still thinking through as far as deciding it. But I've kept an open mind all along because this battle has never been about the president being a Democrat or whether these appointments are by a Democrat president. To me it's about whether or not there are constitutional principles that might be overturned by the nominee.

BASH: Senator, thank you. I know you've got a lot of -- a lot of work to do and I appreciate you coming on. And I'm guessing we'll see you on the floor voting pretty soon now that you've let it happen.

PAUL: All right.

BASH: Thank you very much.

PAUL: Thank you.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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