Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said on “This Week” that the recent controversies engulfing the White House over the IRS, reporter leak investigations, and Benghazi have threatened President Obama’s “moral authority to lead the nation,” while he continued to question the administration’s use of drone strikes against terrorist targets overseas.
“I think the constellation of these three scandals ongoing, really takes away from the president’s moral authority to lead the nation,” Paul said this morning on “This Week.” “Nobody questions his legal authority, but I think he’s really losing the moral authority to lead this nation. And he really needs to put a stop to this. I don’t care whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, nobody likes to see the opposite party punishing you for your political beliefs, using the power of government to do so.”
While he has called for a special counsel to investigate the IRS scandal, in which the IRS gave increased scrutiny to conservative groups applying for non-profit status, Paul would not say whether he believed any crimes were committed.
“I don’t think we know so far. The main woman from the IRS that’s involved has taken the Fifth Amendment. She’s no longer cooperating,” Paul said of Lois Lerner, the IRS official who refused to testify at a House committee hearing on Wednesday, and was put on leave from her position Thursday. “I think there needs to be a speedy resolution to this… If he goes beyond 30 days and if no one is fired over this? I really think it’s going to be trouble for him trying to lead in the next four years.”
And while Paul said he was “pleased with” the words of President Obama’s major national security speech last week, he continued to question the administration’s use of drone strikes and whether proper due process is occurring before military action against terrorist targets.
“I was pleased with his words, and I was pleased with the – that he did respond to this,” Paul said in reaction to President Obama’s speech Thursday at the National Defense University. “However, there still is a question in my mind of what he thinks due process is. You know, due process to most of us is a court of law, it’s a trial by a jury. And right now their process is him looking at some flashcards and a PowerPoint presentation on ‘Terror Tuesdays’ in the White House. For a lot of us, that’s not really due process.”
When asked whether a drone strike should have been used against Al Qaeda leader and American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed by a drone strike in Yemen in 2011, Paul reiterated his belief that the U.S. should attempt to try individuals for treason, with a judge reviewing evidence before military strikes.
“If you are conspiring to attack America and you are a traitor, I would try you for treason,” Paul said. “If you don’t come home for the trial, I would try you in absentia. And then the death penalty has been used repeatedly throughout our history for treason, but a judge looks at evidence. And that’s something that separates us from the rest of the world, is that we adjudicate things by taking it to an independent body who’s not politically motivated, or elected.”
Paul, who led a 13-hour Senate filibuster on the administration’s use of drone strikes in March, also questioned whether President Obama was truly protecting civil liberties by promising not to carry out certain actions such as detaining citizens indefinitely – while still retaining the power to do so under the law.
“It’s not good enough to us that he’s not using a power,” Paul said. “We want him to assert that he won’t, that he doesn’t have the power.”
Paul said he did not back closing the detainee prison at Guantanamo Bay, which President Obama called for again last week, but Paul said the prison has “become a symbol of something though, and I think things should change.”
“I think the people being held there are bad people,” Paul said. “What I would do though is I would accuse them, charge them, and try them in military commissions, or trials, or tribunals. And I think that would go a long way toward showing the world that we’re not going to hold them without charge forever.”
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