Recently, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) traveled to Russia to meet with officials and one of the people he brought along was Texas State Senator Don Huffines. Reading about the trip in The Dallas Morning News, Huffines, a Republican, boldly states that he’s been assured by Russian officials that no future election meddling in American elections will happen. No, really.
Huffines traveled all the way to Moscow to deliver the message: don’t mess with Texas elections. By the same token, American elections in general. His interview, while braggadocious about his personal role in securing the alleged promise from a Russian official, was hardly a profile in courage. He consistently backed off from speaking about President Trump or Trump’s approach to Russian relations in general. Huffines was interviewed Thursday and was still in Moscow.
We have met with Konstantin Kosachev, a member of the Russian senate and a chairman of the foreign relations committee, and with Sergei Ryabkov, the deputy of what’s really their state department. We were supposed to meet with their secretary of state, but he was on vacation and was too far away to make it.
[Note: Kosachev is among the Russians personally targeted by U.S. sanctions, and he has repeatedly denied Russian interference in the 2016 election. Ryabkov has been a leading figure in efforts to calm tensions between the U.S. and Russia, especially after last year’s tit-for-tat decisions to expel hundreds of diplomats from each country.]
It was mainly a meeting with Sen. Paul, and a chance for him to visit with the Russian government. My role was to — I came over here very concerned about meddling in our elections. We have a committee in the Senate on elections security, and I am a member of that committee and it’s something I’ve worked on and have been talking about — the need to make sure our elections are safe and secure. So, my message is that we’re very concerned about the meddling and I wanted to come look them in the eye and tell them Texas is upset, and we don’t want any foreign government meddling in our elections.
He finally got to the good part. After reassuring Texans that he paid his own way, he took credit for Russian promises not to meddle in our elections. (Emphasis mine)
I came here — spending my money, as you know I don’t take a legislative salary or accept government benefits; I certainly paid for the whole trip — to tell them that we don’t want them meddling. And it succeeded. They said they would not meddle in our elections.
In fact, Kosachev said so in a press conference [after the meeting.] He said that because I asked him to say that.
Though I am just reading about this remarkable claim, a bit of breaking news over here, a roundtable discussion took place Monday in Moscow in which Huffines participated. Also around the table were Senator Paul and Cato Institute CEO Peter Goettler.
“Don Huffines regularly hears from Texans who are concerned about the security of our elections, and who are alarmed by Russia’s efforts to undermine our democratic institutions,” Huffines’ chief of staff, Brent Connett, told The News. “In meetings with Russian officials, Senator Huffines is having frank discussions, relaying Texans’ concerns, and demanding that Russia stop meddling in our elections.
Does the trip make him a traitor? Apparently, some Americans have clapped back on Senator Paul and his delegation’s decision to go and talk to the Russian officials.
“LOL. No,” he answered. “I love my country & I swore an oath to uphold & defend our divinely-inspired US Constitution. I stand for liberty. I stand for election integrity. And I’m over here demanding that Russia stop messing with Texas elections.”
Huffines and his twin brother were asked by their longtime friend, Senator Paul, to be a part of his trip to build opportunities for communication with Russia. Paul specifically points to former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev and his talks with President Reagan, which drew criticism from both Russians and Americans at the time, especially the private meeting between the two. Sound familiar? Paul had a private meeting with Gorbachev on this trip.
“President Gorbachev was instrumental in bringing down the Iron Curtain and restoring ties with the West, and he knows firsthand the critical necessity of engagement,” Paul said in a statement. “Our conversation further encouraged me that open dialogue between our two nations does not have to be a thing of the past. While our discussion focused on various items, the importance of nuclear disarmament was greatly discussed.”
“I’m pleased to announce that we will be furthering this conversation,” Paul said. “We have invited members of the foreign relations committee of Russia to come to the United States and meet with us in Washington.”
Huffines admits that the Russian officials did not claim previous interference in American elections. They denied any meddling and Huffines says he doesn’t believe them. He believes, as most Americans do, that there was Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. He thought it was important, though, to hear from Americans face to face that the meddling must not happen again.
They responded [to our concerns about the meddling]. The conversation lasted about 10 minutes. They had done some homework on Texas. Nothing significant, but they had points they made about Texas to just add to the discussion. The chairman spoke mostly, but many of the others at the table were English speakers so we had quite a bit of conversation in English, which was then relayed by individual translators for the Russians who did not speak English.
Huffines was careful to not step on Senator Paul’s toes. He spoke at length about the importance of opening communication between the two nations. He also admitted it is important to trust but verify any claims made by Russians to U.S. officials on future behavior.
While happy to take credit for eliminating future Russian meddling in our elections (sarcasm mine) he steered clear of opining about Russian sanctions or the topics of discussion brought up by Senator Paul.
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.