Politics

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul says that even if President Donald Trump paid hush money to two mistresses during the 2016 presidential campaign, the payments shouldn’t be considered campaign violations.

Paul went on to say that even if federal election officials find the president guilty of breaking campaign finance law, the violations shouldn’t be considered crimes.

Paul made the comments after a press conference in Louisville where he was advocating for a federal criminal justice reform bill.

“I don’t think that campaign violations should be criminal. We make things too criminal,” Paul said.

“Here we are at a criminal justice reform [event] primarily thinking of some of our poor, disadvantaged citizens who have gotten involved with a crime. But it also can happen to people of all walks of life.”

In August, Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to making hush-money payments to two women who said they had affairs with Trump. Cohen said the payments were ordered by then-candidate Trump.

Though Paul and Trump locked horns during the 2016 presidential campaign, Kentucky’s junior senator has repeatedly defended the president when it comes to investigations into whether Russia meddled in the election.

Paul has voiced concern about overreach by the special counsel investigation into election interference, saying that “special prosecutors have too much power and that we really shouldn’t have them.”

On Monday, Paul compared Trump’s scandal to former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, who paid hush money to a mistress using money that federal officials ultimately ruled wasn’t campaign-related.

“If this is adjudicated by the Federal Election Commission, it really won’t be seen as a campaign contribution. So I think if it goes to the FEC probably that’s what the decision is,” Paul said.

On “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Paul also downplayed the severity of revelations that Cohen lied to Congress about a possible deal between Trump Organization executives and powerful Russians to build a tower in Moscow during the campaign.

“I see no problem with someone running for president trying to build a hotel somewhere. Now, if you are asking and saying ‘I will give you something in exchange for letting us build a hotel,’ that would be wrong. But I haven’t heard any evidence of that. Just trying to build a hotel somewhere, I can’t imagine how that would be criminal,” Paul said.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.