Sen. Rand Paul on Thursday backed President Donald Trump’s criticism of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, using the president’s scolding of the nation’s top law enforcement official to push his own libertarian-leaning criminal justice policy.
“I agree with @realDonaldTrump, his Attorney General should not have recused himself over reported incidental contacts with Russian officials,” Paul (R-Ky.) wrote on Twitter Thursday morning, just hours after The New York Times published an interview with the president in which he said he would not have nominated Sessions to be attorney general had he known that the former Alabama senator would recuse himself from the Justice Department’s ongoing Russia investigation.
Sessions’ decision to recuse himself came shortly after media reports surfaced that he had met multiple times with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. during the campaign even though he had said during his Senate confirmation hearings that he had had no such meetings.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who assumed control of the Russia investigations, later appointed special prosecutor Robert Mueller to handle the probe after Trump abruptly fired then-FBI Director James Comey, a decision the president later said he made with the bureau’s Russia investigation on his mind.
"Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else," Trump said in the Times interview, adding, "It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president."
After voicing his support for Trump’s criticism of Sessions, Paul turned his attention to civil asset forfeiture, a controversial practice by which law enforcement can seize money and property suspected of being used in a crime or obtained via illegal activity. The practice allows money and property to be seized even from individuals who have not been charged with a crime, and the process of retrieving those assets can be challenging.
At a Wednesday press conference with Rosenstein, Sessions announced plans to ramp up civil asset forfeiture efforts that had been scaled back by the Obama administration.
“What I’m most concerned about though is the Attorney General’s actions yesterday to push forward with federal asset forfeiture,” Paul, perhaps the Senate’s most libertarian-leaning member, wrote on Twitter. “Asset forfeiture is an unconstitutional taking of property without trial. It’s wrong and I call on the AG and the Administration to stop.”
Paul’s backing of Trump’s position on Sessions comes as the two men have clashed over Republicans’ Obamacare repeal-and-replace plan. Paul has come out against the plan, saying it doesn’t go far enough in gutting the law. Trump has expressed frustration with the holdouts, and he singled out Paul during the Times interview.
"The problem is we have 52 votes. Don’t forget, you look at Obama, he had 60. That’s a big difference," Trump said. "So, we have 52 votes. Now, I guess we lose Susan Collins. I guess we lose Rand Paul. Then we can’t lose any votes."