Transcript: Sen. Rand Paul on "Face the Nation," March 18, 2018

Attorney General Jeff Sessions accepted the recommendation of the Department of Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility and fired FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe on Friday, just hours before the career FBI employee was eligible for retirement. President Trump celebrated McCabe's ouster, a move many said could send a chill through the ranks federal law enforcement.

Sen. Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, joined us to discuss his reaction to the firing, the reasoning for McCabe's dismissal and Paul's plans to oppose Mr. Trump's nominee for CIA director, Gina Haspel, over concerns about her level of involvement in the agency's torture program in the early 2000s.

The following is a transcript of the interview with Paul that aired Sunday, March 18, 2018, on "Face the Nation."  


MARGARET BRENNAN: We begin with Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul. He joins us from Bowling Green this morning. Senator, we do want to talk to you about your opposition to the president's nominees for the State Department and the CIA, but first I want to ask you about the Mueller investigation and the firing of Andrew McCabe. This morning the president has had a lot to say about the Special Counsel's investigation and it comes in the wake of news that his lawyers received questions from Mueller's team and that the Trump organization itself has been subpoenaed. Do you believe his statements are an attempt to influence the investigation?

SEN. RAND PAUL: Um, sure. Anytime the president speaks I'm sure it has influence on public opinion. I don't know how much influence that has on the investigation. I would say that the facts with regard to McCabe are very important. It appears that the facts are from the inspector general's office and the inspector general is something I'm a big fan of. They're objective, they are not partisan. They look at the facts. They basically have said that McCabe leaked classified documents. That's illegal, but then he also lied about leaking classified documents. And so you know the FBI are sticklers on this and they don't tolerate lying from their agents.

And so, if all that's true, I see no way that he could continue in his office and that punishment is appropriate. I mean look at it in comparison to General Flynn. General Flynn's been offered a year in jail for lying about something or misleading the FBI about something that was actually legal. Here we have an instance where McCabe does something illegal and lies about it how I would say this is a greater offense than Flynn--

BRENNAN: Have you seen the results of the investigation into Andrew McCabe, which have not been made public and are you saying you agree he should have been fired?

SEN. PAUL: If the facts are true as they've been reported in the media, that McCabe lied about releasing classified documents. Yes, it's against the law to release classified documents and against the law to lie about it if the FBI asked you about it. So that would be two significant infractions--

BRENNAN: But you don't know that he did that--

SEN. PAUL: --If that's true then absolutely he should be fired--

BRENNAN: You haven't seen evidence that he did that is what you're saying.

SEN. PAUL: I know only what the news is reporting on this and that's what everyone in the news says that this is what happened. That he leaked-- that he illegally leaked classified documents and then lied about it.

BRENNAN: The president also tweeted that there was tremendous leaking, lying and corruption at the FBI, the Justice Department and the State Department. Are you concerned that there is some sort of chill effect that may be going through federal law enforcement in the wake of this firing and the president's statements?

SEN. PAUL: I'm afraid that the FBI has been terribly damaged by all of this really starting with James Comey and I think there's been this politicization of it. I think James Comey could well have cost Hillary Clinton the election by basically not indicting her, but then saying she was guilty as heck in a press conference and then I think they reversed course and then went over the top on Trump. Really the FBI needs to learn to stay out of politics. And here's the problem and from the beginning of our country Madison warned about this that men are not angels. So you have people at the FBI that turn out to be very biased, McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page.

This is why I've been advocating that no one should be allowed to search American's data, Republican or Democrat without asking a judge for permission through a warrant. This is the institutional reform that I've been advocating. And it-it means that bias can come from either side. But law enforcement has such enormous power and needs to be held in check and balance by judiciary-- by the judiciary.

BRENNAN: Because of the slim Republican majority your vote will be key here and much needed if the president wants to get his new secretary of state nominee confirmed, Mike Pompeo. What do you need to hear from him to change your vote from a no to a yes?

SEN. PAUL: You know, I've been very supportive of the president on taxes, regulation, the judiciary, but when it comes to foreign policy the thing I liked about President Trump was his opposition to the Iraq war. I guess what I'm perplexed by is that he keeps nominating people around him on foreign policy who actually thought the Iraq war was so good that they want to have an Iran war now. And so I think the lesson of the Iraq war was that there are unintended consequences from regime change. And so I don't think somebody being the head of secretary of state who wants regime change in Iran is a good thing or wants regime change in North Korea.

You really want a diplomat to be in charge of the State Department, not someone who's advocating for war. So I can't vote for Pompeo. On Haspel, my main concern about her is that she oversaw an illegal black ops operation in Thailand that included torture and I don't think torture is what America's about.

BRENNAN: Well, the CIA is looking at declassifying the details of exactly what her job was. They have not confirmed that she ran that black site, but why don't you withhold your judgment on her until you see the details of her 33-year career?

SEN. PAUL: Because I think there's ample information out there and it's not disputed that she ran the black ops operation in Thailand, that she did oversee enhanced interrogation. In fact, her colleagues have said that she was an enthusiastic supporter of these enhanced interrogation or waterboarding or torture as most of us have come to believe it. There is also evidence that she signed a cable to destroy the evidence. There were videotapes which I'm sure were ghastly of the simulated drowning and these were destroyed with her support and advocacy when she returned home to Washington.

So I think there's got to be plenty of good people at the CIA who weren't involved with torture and really we, you know, we're supposed to be the symbol of hope for the world and people who want freedom from totalitarianism. They want freedom from torture. They don't want the freedom to torture--

BRENNAN: But that was--

SEN. PAUL: -- so I think this sets a terrible, this sets a terrible example for the world.

BRENNAN: To be clear, though that was U.S. policy at that time. That wasn't her individual policy, but just to quickly fact check you on something there, sir, the investigator who looked into some of what you're talking about with those tapes, the CBS News senior security contributor, the former number two at the CIA, Mike Morell, did clear Haspel saying she didn't order the destruction. Her superior, did she just drafted the cable. Does that change your view of her?

SEN. PAUL: I think she was-- I think she was a willing participant in waterboarding and I think she was a willing participant in destroying the tapes. It wasn't her standing up and making a principled stand and saying I'm going to the president, I'm not going to destroy these tapes. It was her writing the memo and who actually advocated for it, her or her superior. There's no evidence that she was protesting against torture. There's every evidence that she was covering it up.

This is not what we stand for as a people. We stand for freedom and hope. We can't be the country that tortures prisoners. And, you know, I've got three young members of my family in the military. I don't want every enemy around the world to think, "Oh, it's OK to torture people because the Americans do it." I don't want my family to be captured and for other countries to think, "Oh, torture is OK." Absolutely--

BRENNAN: Will you filibuster these nominations?

SEN. PAUL: --cannot have her be the symbol of this. Excuse me?

BRENNAN: Will you filibuster these nominations?

SEN. PAUL: Yes, I'll do everything to stop. Now, I don't have the power to stop her nomination. There's enough votes, she'll eventually win. But there are a few things in life where it is worth standing up and saying enough is enough. This is wrong. This is, you know, this is beneath contempt. We are not a people that should be so fearful or so vengeful that we think that torture is somehow acceptable. On what level could torture ever be acceptable?

No, we should make a stand on this. She should never leave the CIA. And one other reason is, they have such enormous power to destroy lives. They can listen to all the phone conversations of the world, they can assassinate people with drones. We should not have someone at the top who has actually been an advocate of or a participant in torture.

BRENNAN: Well, Gina Haspel will speak her piece when she has that confirmation hearing. Thank you Senator.