Only days after saying there are “a lot more shoes to drop” in the probe of President Trump’s connections to Russia, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., lit into GOP colleague Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., on the Senate floor, accusing him of working for Vladimir Putin.
Speaking from the Senate floor in support of the nation of Montenegro’s request to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, McCain – attempting to pre-empt objections – addressed those who might oppose the measure: “You are achieving the objectives of Vladimir Putin … trying to dismember this small country which has already been the subject an attempted coup.”
McCain continued: “If they object, they are now carrying out the desires and ambitions of Vladimir Putin, and I do not say that lightly.”
But when McCain concluded by asking for unanimous consent to advance the bill, Paul raised an objection and left the room.
A shaken McCain addressed the Senate president: “I note the senator from Kentucky leaving the floor without justification or any rationale for the action he has just taken. That is really remarkable, that a senator blocking a treaty that is supported by the overwhelming number – perhaps 98, at least, of his colleagues – would come to the floor and object and walk away.
“The only conclusion you can draw when he walks away is he has no justification for his objection to having a small nation be part of NATO that is under assault from the Russians. So I repeat again, the senator from Kentucky is now working for Vladimir Putin.”
Tensions have been brewing between the two senators for years. Since 2010, McCain has criticized Paul’s “isolationism,” noted Reason, calling him a “wacko bird” in 2013 and saying a Paul versus Hillary Clinton contest would be a “tough choice” for him to make. Paul has punched back as recently as last month, telling ABC’s “This Week,” America is “very lucky” Trump is president and not McCain.
“Everything that he says about the president is colored by his own personal dispute he’s got running with President Trump, and it should be taken with a grain of salt, because John McCain’s the guy who’s advocated for war everywhere,” Paul said.
“He would bankrupt the nation. We’re very lucky John McCain’s not in charge, because I think we’d be in perpetual war,” Paul added.
“I would say John McCain’s been wrong on just about everything over the last four decades. He advocated for the Iraq War, which I think destabilized the Middle East,” he said.
“If you look at the map, there’s probably at least six different countries where John McCain has advocated for us having boots on the ground,” he added.
Paul later issued a statement explaining his objection to the Montenegro bill, without addressing McCain’s charge he was working for Putin.
“Currently, the United States has troops in dozens of countries and is actively fighting in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen (with the occasional drone strike in Pakistan),” Paul told the Daily Beast.
“In addition, the United States is pledged to defend 28 countries in NATO. It is unwise to expand the monetary and military obligations of the United States given the burden of our $20 trillion debt.”
A McCain spokesman issued a clarification of the senator’s comments, without mentioning the accusation against Paul.
“Senator McCain believes that the person who benefits the most from Congress’ failure to ratify Montenegro’s ascension to NATO is Vladimir Putin, whose government has sought to destroy the NATO alliance, erode confidence in America’s commitments to its allies, overthrow the duly-elected government of Montenegro, and undermine democratic institutions throughout Europe.”
Five weeks ago, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell invoked a Senate rule to reprimand and silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who was reading a 1986 letter from Coretta Scott King that suggested Sen. Jeff Sessions actively worked to block black voting.