Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a former rival of President-elect Donald Trump, said Tuesday indicated he’s willing to support the incoming president’s secretary of state nominee, Rex Tillerson.
“I have an open mind,” Paul told CNN’s Erin Burnett.
The Kentucky senator’s libertarian foreign policy views often put him at odds with some in his party. To Paul, one of the critical focuses of the next administration must be learning from “the mistakes of the Iraq War.”
He said he thinks this is something Trump understands, adding: “I want his secretary of state to, also.”
At present, one of the most controversial aspects of Tillerson’s candidacy is the ExxonMobil CEO’s presumed ties to Russian President Vladamir Putin.
More hawkish Republicans, such as Sens. John McCain and Marco Rubio, have expressed concern with Trump’s nomination with regard to the relationship between Putin and and Tillerson, but Paul said: “I think we may be overstating the friendship aspect of this.”
“He is the CEO of a major international company and his job is to make deals … I don’t think that means he accepts Putin’s world view or is a supporter of what Putin has done in his country to suppress the media or invade other countries,” Paul said.
On the whole, Russia’s alleged involvement in the 2016 presidential election remains a polarizing news cycle topic. It’s an idea that Trump himself has denounced, and Paul told Burnett he’s of a similar mindset.
“I do think there is a certain amount of sour grapes in this and people are trying to make excuses for Hillary Clinton’s loss,” Paul said. Noting that Trump earned more than 70% of the votes in eastern Kentucky, the Bluegrass State senator suggested Clinton’s loss was more about fossil fuels than it was about international cyberattacks.
“I don’t think it had to do with the Russians, it had to do with their disagreement with the regulatory war on coal that costs us 20,000 jobs,” he told the host of “Erin Burnett OutFront.” “So I don’t think the Russians influenced the elections.”
Recognizing that Paul seemed awfully complimentary of the man that had regularly verbally abused him during the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, Burnett wondered if the two would be able to work together once Trump takes office.
“Well campaigns are obviously rough-and-tumble,” Paul said. “We had our moments, but, yes, I think we’ll be (able to work together). I am who I am, whether it’s a Republican president or a Democrat president.”