U.S. Sen. Rand Paul said Wednesday the United States should cut all aid to Egypt because of the military takeover of the country and President Barack Obama is breaking the law by not calling it a coup and halting $1.5 billion in annual financial assistance.
“The president is in defiance of the law. And that’s a real problem for me when the president says he’s above the law,” Paul, R-Ky., said in a telephone interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Yes, I think aid should end immediately.”
Paul plans to visit Las Vegas this weekend to help raise money for the Nevada Republican Party at a private event where VIPs will pay $1,000 to take a picture with the potential 2016 presidential candidate. He’ll also speak Saturday afternoon to Republicans at a $30-a-seat event at the Golden Nugget.
While in Las Vegas, Paul also plans to attend Freedom Fest, a meeting of several thousand libertarian-minded conservatives, an event he said he has attended for the past few years.
This year, Paul has already been making the rounds with visits to battleground states, including Nevada, Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire. He said he wants to talk about his ideas for growing the Republican Party “and you get more attention for those ideas when you go to early-primary states.”
PAUL’S IDEAS FOR GOP
Paul said he thinks the GOP needs to attract more young Republicans by touting libertarian ideas, much like his father, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, did during his failed presidential runs. Nevada is a state where those ideas are popular, including states’ rights, more independence from the federal government and a “live and let live culture,” he said. Gambling is one example and many other states now allow such legal betting.
“I would rather be a bridge between the Ron Paul people and the establishment,” Paul said.
He said many Ron Paul supporters were shunned and not welcomed by the GOP establishment.
“I tell people let’s do the opposite,” he said. “Let’s welcome more people into the party.”
During last summer’s Republican Party convention in Tampa, Fla., Ron Paul supporters who were Nevada delegates voted to nominate the Texas congressman for president, defying the state and national party rules.
Rand Paul, who unlike his father won a speaking role at the convention, said he admired their gumption.
“I applauded their effort,” Paul said. “It was just incredible and moving, the coming together of so many people, many of them new in the Republican Party.”
Still, he said he doesn’t understand why some Ron Paul supporters hold a grudge against him because he endorsed Mitt Romney for president. Paul said he backed Romney only after it was clear he had won enough delegates to become the GOP nominee and after speaking with his father.
“I think it’s a little unusual that people would be holding a grudge,” he said.
DRONE FILIBUSTER EXPLAINED
Paul recently gained attention by holding a 13-hour filibuster on the Senate floor to decry Obama’s drone policy, which appeared to allow the killing of Americans on U.S. soil if they’re suspected terrorists. After the filibuster, the Obama administration clarified that wasn’t U.S. policy after all.
Paul said he isn’t opposed to the military use of drones to kill suspected terrorists overseas. Nevada’s Creech Air Force Base is a hub for overseas drone operations involving Predator and Reaper remotely piloted aircraft. The base is 45 miles northwest of Las Vegas and is important to the economy of the state.
His filibuster “wasn’t about the specific use of (drone) technology,” he said. “I would have the same argument about sniper rifles. I am against snipers killing Americans at a casino in Las Vegas.”
Paul said he also opposes the National Security Agency spying on Americans as revealed recently by Edward Snowden, who has become an international fugitive. Paul said he didn’t want to comment on whether Snowden should be viewed as a criminal or as a whistle-blower, but he said the spying is disturbing.
“I think young people are outraged by this,” said Paul, who added it’s a violation of the Fourth Amendment right to privacy and due process. “They can’t see a reason why you would look at a billion phone calls a day.”
The NSA maintains it only targets foreign communications.
Paul said the nation’s founders intended the government should have the power to look at somebody’s private records only after going to a judge for a warrant for a specific person and specific items if a crime is suspected.
He said Americans, particularly young Americans, are fed up with government intrusiveness, endless wars overseas and the political use of U.S. aid to governments that don’t always share U.S. democratic ideals.
In Egypt, for example, the military removed elected President Mohamed Morsi from power, prompting bloody clashes between the Egyptian Army and Morsi’s supporters. Obama has refused to call it a military coup.
Paul said U.S. aid often is counterproductive. A Gallup Poll last year showed Egyptians overwhelmingly (75 percent) said they didn’t want U.S. aid to go to political groups, Paul noted. He said aid often lines the pockets of dictatorial leaders such as ousted President Hosni Mubarak, while the poor citizens continue to suffer.
“I think aid isn’t actually buying friends, it’s creating an animus against Americans,” he said.
PAUL ON LAS VEGAS ISSUES
On issues close to Las Vegans’ hearts, Paul sided with most Nevadans on whether Yucca Mountain should become a site for a nuclear waste repository. He said if a state doesn’t want it, the federal government shouldn’t be allowed to force such a facility on the state. He said he doesn’t oppose reprocessing nuclear waste; he said there’s a uranium processing facility in Paducah, Ky., but local people there see it as a job creator with 1,700 workers.
“I think the decision should be made locally,” Paul said. “I’m not afraid of nuclear waste.”
Paul said he even thinks Yucca Mountain should be sold to a private user and that more federal land should be turned over to private uses in Nevada, where the federal government owns about 84 percent of the state.
“I’m tired of the federal government telling states what to do,” he said.
On another local issue, Paul said he plans to spend plenty of money in Las Vegas and he believes the convention-dependent city is an attractive place for such meetings. Last year, he criticized the government for holding conventions in Las Vegas after the General Services Administration spent $823,000 for a four-day conference at the M Resort. Paul said he opposed government waste, not Las Vegas as a convention site.
“I love coming to Las Vegas. I love coming to conventions and putting money into your slot machines. I would say that government employees using taxpayer money doing lavish conventions anywhere” is a waste of money, he said, adding “that would be in Kentucky, too.
Contact reporter Laura Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2919. Follow her on Twitter @lmyerslvrj on Twitter.