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Rand Paul Backs Trump After Helsinki, Says GOP Critics Motivated by ‘Dislike of the President’

Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) broke with his fellow Congressional Republicans late Monday, praising President Trump for attempting to improve relations with Russia and rebuking his critics for allowing their personal animus towards him to color their interpretation of world events.

After his joint press conference with Vladimir Putin Monday, Trump was pilloried almost universally by the press and lawmakers of both parties for appearing to place Putin’s denial of election meddling on equal footing with the U.S. intelligence consensus of Russian culpability.

Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) called Trump’s refusal to forcefully confront Putin “a tragic mistake,” while fellow Arizona Republican Jeff Flake said it was “shameful.” The consummate Trump critics were joined by many of their typically more deferential colleagues, including speaker Paul Ryan, in criticizing Trump’s performance.

Paul, whose isolationist streak tends to distance him from many of his Republican colleagues on foreign policy questions, cast his colleagues’ criticisms as senseless warmongering or personally motivated.

“It’s gotten so ridiculous that someone has to stand up and say we should try to engage even our adversaries and open up our lines of communication,” Paul told Politico. “We’re going to talk to the president about some small steps in order to try to thaw the relations between our countries.”

Paul and a handful of fellow Republicans, many of whom travelled to Russia earlier this month to meet with Kremlin officials, are eager to warm relations with Russia; but the vast majority of their conference believe recent acts of aggression necessitate a firm response.

The Kentucky libertarian dismissed their criticisms as entirely political and shortsighted.

“Republicans that are making the criticism are either the pro-war Republicans like McCain and Graham or the anti-Trump ones like Sasse,” Paul said. “They are motivated by their persistent and consistent dislike of the president.”

Paul, who voted against the last round of sanctions implemented against Russia, has continued to criticize what he views as Republicans’ over reliance on deterrence in foreign policy.

“We have a lot of areas … we should be talking about,” Paul said of Russia. “We won’t get anywhere on it if we just say we want … to put more sanctions on them and tomorrow they’ll surrender and do what we want.”

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