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Democratic Attacks on Sessions Influenced Rand Paul’s Vote

But the Kentucky Republican is concerned about DOJ under Trump

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul wants to talk to President Donald Trump about civil asset forfeiture. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul wants to talk to President Donald Trump about civil asset forfeiture. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Rand Paul voted to confirm Jeff Sessions as President Donald Trump’s attorney general, but that doesn’t mean the Kentucky Republican with libertarian leanings doesn’t have real concerns about how Sessions will run the Justice Department.

And he thinks it will be more difficult to make progress on a criminal justice overhaul with a Trump-Sessions DOJ.

“In some ways, the Democrats made it much more certain that I would vote for him, by trying to destroy his character. I think to me 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 like me,” Paul said Thursday. “They chose to go after him, and try to destroy a man’s character.”

Speaking during a taping of C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program set to air on Sunday, Paul expressed concern about privacy issues and efforts to overhaul the criminal justice system under Trump and Sessions.

“It’s going to be more difficult for criminal justice reform under this president and under this administration,” Paul said. But he added that he wished former President Barack Obama had moved to “push the ball forward” earlier in his White House tenure.

“There have been these descriptions of President Obama of being aloof. I think they’re kind of true. This is a sausage-making factory up on the Hill. You’ve got to come up and mix it up,” the senator said.

“President Trump may be more successful because Mike Pence is up here all the time. He’s sort of a creature of Congress, a creature of state government, but he knows the players,” Paul said. 

The Kentucky Republican said going forward he has a list of items to discuss with Trump, including government policies toward forfeiture of assets in legal proceedings prior to any sort of conviction.

“I think civil asset forfeiture is a terrible idea until you’ve convicted someone, and I’d like to have that discussion with the president. I’ve had that discussion with Sen. Sessions, and I think some of the things we’ve done particularly to poor people — poor people in our country deal in cash,” Paul said. “I think in order to take someone’s money from them, the government ought to prove it was ill-gotten.”

“I think there still will be a lot of standing up and saying that there is a right to privacy that he needs to be observing,” the senator said during the C-SPAN interview with reporters from Roll Call and The Washington Post.

But Paul also said he agreed with the move to block Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren from continuing to speak on the Sessions nomination after she read into the record statements from 1986 made against him by Coretta Scott King and former Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, taking the view that Warren had impugned Sessions’ character.

“No person that I know wants to be called racist or insensitive or that you’re for trying to prevent people to vote.” Paul said. “We may disagree exactly on what the law should be, but that is attacking someone’s motives and character to say that he doesn’t want, for some reason, African-American voters to vote, and I don’t think it’s true.”

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