Rand Paul Defends Trump, Says Campaign Finance Is 'Incredibly Complicated' and Violations Shouldn't Be Criminalized

Senator Rand Paul has dismissed the seriousness of alleged federal campaign finance crimes committed by President Donald Trump, arguing that the laws regarding these crimes are "incredibly complicated" and the penalties should be reduced.

The Republican congressman from Kentucky appeared on NBC News' Sunday morning television program Meet the Press to discuss the allegations against Trump as well as other recent issues surrounding the president. On Friday, a sentencing memo for Trump's ex-lawyer Michael Cohen issued by federal prosecutors implicated the president for leading a criminal conspiracy, which involved paying off Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal using campaign funds.

Paul told host Chuck Todd that he didn't believe such violations should be treated so harshly, and should just be punished with fines.

FULL INTERVIEW: @RandPaul talks about developments in the Special Counsel investigation and his views on the President's Attorney General nominee. #IfItsSundayhttps://t.co/Akg2BPLOhK pic.twitter.com/3V2C1aXz8k

— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) December 9, 2018

"There are thousands and thousands of rules, it's incredibly complicated, campaign finance," he said, arguing that criminal penalties are not the best way to address such violations. He said he personally thinks that the punishment "shouldn't be jail time, it ought to be a fine."

"It just like a lot of other things we've done in Washington," Paul continued. "We've overcriminalized campaign finance."

Todd then pressed Paul about allegations that Cohen had circulated his false Congressional testimony in advance, suggesting that the president was aware that he would lie. The Senator asked for clarification about what exactly Cohen lied about, to which Todd pointed to the Trump Tower Moscow project.

"I guess I don't quite understand it," Paul responded. "I don't know what's illegal about trying to build a hotel in Russia … I see no problem with someone running for president trying to build a hotel somewhere," he said. The senator pointed out that it would be different if the presidential candidate was offering something in exchange for approval of such a project. "I haven't heard any evidence of that," he said.

Todd then pressed Paul to explain why Cohen's and Trump's stories about the project have changed in regards to the project, asking why someone would lie if they had nothing to hide. The senator responded by alleging "prosecutorial abuse," suggesting that the probe pushed Cohen to pin dirt on the president.

President Donald Trump, right, acknowledges Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), left, prior to signing H.J. Res. 38, disapproving the rule submitted by the US Department of the Interior known as the Stream Protection Rule in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on February 16, 2017 in Washington, DC Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images

"Maybe that's because the prosecutor is pressuring him, saying: 'Well, if you don't give us something on Trump, guess what, you get twenty years. If you give us something on Trump, you get four years,'" Paul said. "I think we're trying to make and find a crime," he argued.

Despite Paul's skepticism about the the accusations against Trump, other politicians and analysts disagree. Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, told CBS News' Face the Nation on Sunday that Trump may "face the real prospect of jail time."

"Until now, you had two different charges, allegations, whatever you want to call them," Democratic Representative Jerry Nadler of New York, the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a Saturday interview with The New York Times . "One was collusion with the Russians. One was obstruction of justice and all that entails. And now you have a third — that the president was at the center of a massive fraud against the American people."