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CNN "Newsroom" - Transcript - Drones and Filibuster


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BASH: Well, I can answer that question. I'll definitely ask him. I want to tell you and our viewers how this happened. I just came from talking to you on the air and I walked downstairs and just the magic of being in the Senate, I bumped into the senator and he was gracious enough to come and be on with us live. And the first question I asked you, how is your voice.

SEN. RAND PAUL, ( R) KENTUCKY: The voice is recovering. And I think I lost a few pounds. So there's some advantages to not eating all day. Though I was sneaking candy bars. There's a candy drawer and if you go to the candy drawer, you can sneak around and get a candy bar. But I see you caught me with half of the candy bar in and out of my mouth. My wife said can't you chew with your mouth closed when you're on the floor?

BASH: I want to ask you about the substance of the argument that you were making in a second, but first I want to ask more about the mechanics, because I think just on a human level, people want to know how you stood there for 12 hours plus, almost 13 hours.

PAUL: Well, it's not easy. My feet were hurting by the end of the day. You can't leave the floor and you can't sit down. So you can't use the restroom or do anything like that.

BASH: And you were told that. Did your staff or did the parliamentary say -- PAUL: It just sort of is the rule that's kind of known, and the staff snows the rules better a lot of the times than the senators do, so they gave me advice on what we can do. And there are staff in there that works for the Republican side and the Democrat's side. They inform you what you can and can't do. And then you have to ask a question, people can ask a question to you, but there's a certain protocol or you lose the floor. And Democrats will leave someone down there to see if you make a mistake on the floor to take it back from you. And it doesn't happen very often because, one, it's hard to get floor and hard to get recognized when it's not a designated time. Most times the floor is controlled by the leadership. This just happened to be a time it wasn't.

BASH: And you snuck up on both leaders, right? Is that fair to say? Did they know you were going to do this?

PAUL: No. In fact we didn't know we were going to do it that day. We had gotten a lot of information because it's an issue we're really interested in that we think it should be easy for the president to say, you know what, Americans not engaged in combat in America cannot be targeted for killing.

BASH: And again I'll get to the substance in one second, but one of the things that was so fascinating was how organic it was and how it took on a life of its own. I'm not even sure if you realized that because you were there. On the internet. I was watching it for the first two, three hours. You were alone. And then suddenly you had some of your more conservative compatriots like Ted Cruz and Mike Lee come and then by midnight, you had a lot of people there. There was a hash tag "stand with Rand" and more and more people were tweeting, even the RNC chair, get down there and help him. Were you surprised?

PAUL: It is sort of a fascinating phenomenon. And when you're on the floor, you're not allowed to use electronics and I also didn't have time because I had to keep talking. If you stop for more than a minute, they can say you no longer speaking, you don't hold the floor. So you have to keep going. I didn't have time to look at my phone which you're not supposed to do anyway.

But then when Senator Cruz came to the floor and started reading those tweets, I got a feeling that maybe this was bigger than -- all we knew is we believed in an issue, we wanted to talk about it, and that it's important that the president realize 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 they do, we're willing to let the Brennan nomination to go forward.

BASH: And talk more about that. You said you heard from the White House. Who and what did they say?

PAUL: I don't 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 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 capital, 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 somebody 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 have 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. We all believe that the military, Republicans and Democrats, that the military or anyone can repulse an active attack by an individual or military or 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 it a standard 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 issue is 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 had great theater, but you're wrong on the issue 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" is right on a lot of issues and they're wrong on this issue. The problem is 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. With every fiber of my body, I believe that is unjust and unconstitutional. If you're an American on our soil, people can't just accuse you and call you a name. They're just assuming the person calling your name is omniscient and knows you're guilty of that.

But the way I see it is 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 we think he's associated with terrorism, he's an enemy combatant? That's a lot different than someone from 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 standard in our country.

BASH: What do you think (ph) about imminent threat (ph)?

PAUL: Imminent threat, no problem. If you're attacking -- but it has to be an imminent 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 is attacking the Capitol with a grenade launcher, that's an imminent threat. If someone is carrying a bomb into to a building and getting ready to set it off, that's it. IF someone's assembling a bomb 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 them questions about who they are talking to and investigate it? Really it's about the belief that justice, innocence or guilt should be determined by a jury of your peers.


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