Sen. Rand Paul tangles with Donald Trump, Chris Christie in first presidential debate

08/07/2015 12:12 PM

Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul tussled with GOP frontrunner Donald Trump and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during the first presidential debate broadcast on Fox News Thursday, the day after a pair of political allies were indicted on conspiracy charges dating back to his father’s 2012 presidential campaign.

Paul — who has openly questioned the timing of the U.S. Department of Justice’s announcement of indictments against Jesse Benton and John Tate, two top officials in the pro-Paul super PAC America’s Liberty, and another member of former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign, Dimitrios Kesari — wasted little time in targeting Trump after the real estate mogul indicated at the debate’s onset that he would not rule out a third-party campaign if he does not secure the Republican presidential nomination.

Trump, Rand Paul said, “buys and sells politicians of all stripes.”

“He’s already hedging his bet on the Clintons, OK?” said Paul, who is polling seventh in the 17-person GOP field, according to an average by Real Clear Politics. “So if he doesn’t run as a Republican, maybe he supports Clinton or maybe he runs as an independent, but I’d say that he’s already hedging his bets because he’s used to buying politicians.”

Trump shot back that he had given Paul “plenty of money,” but a review of Federal Election Commission records show he has not contributed to Paul or any political action committees directly tied to the junior U.S. senator.

Paul also found himself in the crosshairs of Christie, who sharply criticized the senator for his stance against the bulk collection of data by the National Security Agency.

Christie reiterated his belief that Paul should testify before Congress if terrorists attack the U.S., accusing Paul of using the issue to bolster his presidential prospects.

“Listen senator, you know, when you’re sitting in a subcommittee just blowing hot air about this, you can say things like that,” Christie said after Paul said he wanted to collect more records from terrorists and less from American citizens. “When you’re responsible for protecting the lives of the American people, then what you need to do is to make sure, is to make sure that you use the system the way it’s supposed to work.”

Paul said Christie misunderstands the Bill of Rights, adding that he did not trust President Barack Obama’s administration with data collection before attacking Christie for hugging the Democrat in the wake of Hurricane Sandy struck the eastern seaboard in 2012.

“I know you gave him a big hug, and if you want to give him a big hug again, go right ahead,” Paul said.

Christie retorted: “The hugs that I remember are the hugs that I gave to the families who lost their people on Sept. 11. Those are the hugs I remember, and those had nothing to do, those had nothing to do with politics, unlike what you’re doing by cutting speeches on the floor of the Senate then putting them on the Internet within a half an hour to raise money for your campaign and while still putting our country at risk.”

Paul also addressed the proposed nuclear agreement among Iran, the U.S. and other world leaders, the U.S. Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling and foreign aid, particularly to Israel.

Bret Baier, one of the debate moderators, asked Paul about his first budget proposal, which stripped foreign aid to all countries.

“Each one of my budgets has taken a meat ax to foreign aid because I think we ought to quit sending it to countries that hate us,” he said. “I think we ought to stop sending it to countries that burn our flag. Israel’s not one of those, but even Benjamin Netanyahu said that ultimately they will be stronger when they’re independent.”

“Israel is a great ally and this is no particular animus of Israel, but what I will say and I’ll say it over and over again, we cannot give away money we don’t have,” Paul continued. “We do not project power from bankruptcy court.”

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.