Kennedy (from past interview) We’re gonna
have to contain them and the old way to contain
them you don’t have to be ugly about it but
you’ve got to be very very firm.
Dealing with Putin is like hand-feeding a
shark, you can do it but you have to do it
very very carefully.
CNN: That is a Republican Senator John Kennedy’s
advice on how to handle Russian President
Senator Kennedy recently returned from a congressional
trip to Russia where he says he told high-level
officials to stop screwing with our elections.
CNN: Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana joins
Senator thank you so much for being with us.
You say talking to Putin’s like feeding a
shark you can do it but you have to do it
very carefully–did President Trump feed the
shark very carefully.
KENNEDY: Here here’s, let me answer your question
And I will answer it John.
Here’s what I wish the President had said.
I wish he’d come out after the meeting and
said President Putin and I had a very frank
I told him to stop acting like a thug.
I told him if he wanted a better relationship
with my country, he should stop, to stop trying
to mug democracy.
He should stop treating the truth like his
mother’s good China.
He should get out of Ukraine, let it self-determine.
Get out of Crimea let himself determine.
Help us settle the mess in in Syria and stop
poisoning people and other countries.
Now that’s not what the president said.
He started out like a man on fire.
He fussed at NATO as he should have for letting
the American taxpayer pay most of the freight.
He fussed in Germany for signing a gas deal
with Russia, but at his press conference,
and I watched it first live, and then I watched
it on tape, he was very uncertain, very tentative.
He was clearly off his game.
And I will tell you, I left this after listening
to both of them, I told my my better half
Becky, I said “Becky I’m not sure what the
Now he’s he’s he’s cleared it up and regardless
of what anybody says, I stand by what I said
Dealing with him is like hand-feeding the
shark, even has eyes like a shark.
Forget what he says.
Watch what he does.
If he medals in our election this fall and
I told his colleagues this when I was in Russia
as did the other senators, if he messes with
our election this fall, I believe Congress
will double down on sanctions.
Maybe triple down
CNN: Okay senator, little let’s review a few
of the things you said here.
You said you thought the president was very
ineffective, uncertain you said, off his game.
CNN: Do you feel that he looked weak standing
next to President Putin?
KENNEDY: He looked off his game.
I’ve never had an at length discussion one
on one with Mr. Trump about how he feels about
Russia, so I honestly don’t know, you have
CNN: But I think, I think, we have every reason
to think we do know how he feels about Russia,
he’s asked about it frequently, he talks about
it, frequently and we have every reason to
believe what he has said in the past about
Russian election meddling which was actually
consistent to what he said, when he said next
to Vladimir Putin–which is, he’s not sure
if russia did it or not.
The russians have always told him no.
He thinks that Vladimir Putin believes that
it didn’t happen–and you think the president
clarified that statement?
KENNEDY: Well John first those are your words
Ok, let me tell you what I was going to say.
KENNEDY: What I was going to say is i’ve never
had a one-on-one conversation with the president
about Russia, but here’s what I think he thinks
about Russia–I think, he thinks that Russia
did meddle in our election.
I think he thinks and I agree with him, that
Russia’s meddling did not determine the outcome
of the election.
I don’t know how anybody who is fair-minded
can point to a specific activity and say “yep
that’s what tipped the election”.
Americans have a multitude of reasons for
voting as they do.
I think he understands the threat from Putin.
I do think he wants a better relationship
I think the world would be safer if we had
a better relationship Russia.
What I hope he understands is that, i’ll say
it again–trying to reason with Mr. Putin
is like trying to hand feed a shark.
Logic doesn’t work.
We have to hit him in the face.
He did and say if you do it again I’m gonna
hit you in the face twice as hard, that he
CNN: You can’t sit here though and tell me
that you thought that President Trump hit
the shark in the face?
KENNEDY: No I just said he looked tentative,
he looked off his game, I wasn’t certain what
he said and I was very thankful yesterday
that he he came back, I didn’t know if he’d
do it or not, and said hey let me clarify
what I meant
CNN: And you buy the clarification, you buy
the clarification that would vs. Wouldn’t?
You buy the clarifications that it could be
other people also, that’s enough for you?
KENNEDY: No, I buy his clarification about
what he said at his press conference when
people said– “well, he’s given into Russia”
I don’t think he’s given into Russia but what
I think doesn’t matter, and no disrespect
what you think doesn’t matter, what anybody
thinks based on words doesn’t matter.
People talk a lot in government
CNN: What actions, what actions?
KENNEDY: Let’s watch what they do
CNN: What actions have you seen or what words
have you heard from President Trump that make
you believe he is standing up to Russia on
this, on the history of their attack on the
US election in 2016 on the fears from our
intelligence community they might do it again?
KENNEDY: Well here’s what I say: I see number
one he told our NATO allies–start carrying
the load a little bit, the American taxpayer
getting tired of it, and of course, one of
the purposes of NATO is to contain Russia
KENNEDY: On number two, he was very critical
of Germany for establishing the Nord Stream
– gas pipeline with Russia.
I mean here we are on one hand with a left
hand we’re trying to contain them and on the
right hand we’re giving them money to buy
weapons to try to kill us and he fussed to
Germany for that.
Number three, the president said last night
and I believe him and I think that Congress
will hold him to his words–if they mess in
our election they trying to meddle in our
election–we’re gonna knock the hell out of
them, twice as hard.
And I think we should.
Now if mr.
Putin wants the better relationship with the
United States, I would welcome it.
But he’s got to stop acting like a thug and
the only way we’re going to judge, whether
he really wants a better relationship, is
if he starts acting like it and changes his
The guy does.
I mean I remember what President Bush said
about looking in mr.
Putin’s eyes I haven’t been as close as President
Bush but i’ve seen his eyes on television,
KENNEDY: He’s got shark eyes.
I mean the man, I’m not saying– look he’s
either immoral or (unintelligible)–he understands
CNN: He understands power and the question
is– is President Trump projecting power,
when he stands next to him and equivocates
over the Russian attack on the US election?
Is the president projecting power, when he
tells Tucker Carlson last night– you talked
about what the president said last night,
when he tells Tucker Carlson– yeah, he often
wonders whether or not it’s worth it–sending
US troops to help defend Montenegro if their
Montenegro is part of NATO.
That is foundational to NATO–does that project
KENNEDY:: Well here’s what I think, and I
CNN: But, I’m gonna ask you, but I’m just
trying to figure out– do you think that the
president projected power to Donald Trump
on the key issue–that President Trump projected
power to Vladimir Putin on the key issue of
KENNEDY: Here’s what I think, I think you
have to judge world leaders including but
not limited to politicians, not by their words
but by their actions.
And we will be able to judge President Trump
and President Putin by their actions.
I believe that President Trump met with–let
me finish, John– I believe that President
Trump meant what he said.
For example if Russia mettles in our elections,
and we’ll know our national intelligence agencies
will tell them, will tell us–we’re going
to hit him so hard that he coughs up bones.
Now I think the president will do that if
he doesn’t i’ll come back on your show and
say the president should have done that.
And if he doesn’t, i’ll come back on your
show and say, the President should have done
that, and I don’t agree with him for not doing
it– but I think he’ll ‘ll do it and if he
doesn’t do it, I can tell you
CNN: He hasn’t done it yet, Senator and let
me say this–it will be too late for the people
of Montenegro to wait and see, if President
Trump sends US troops to help them, if they
are perhaps invaded.
It’s too late then.
The message needs to be sent now.
KENNEDY: Look, I didn’t hear, I’m not trying
to dodge the question, John, I honestly didn’t
hear the comments about Montenegro, so I’m
kind of flying blind here–Part of president
Trump’s approach to management and it’s it’s
his choice, he’s the president of United States–he
often thinks out loud, he clearly often grows
CNN: But Senator
KENNEDY: Let me finish John
CNN: And I know Senator but you keep saying,
you keep talking about two different things–
you keep talking about the need to project
power, and then you won’t tell me if you think
the president is actually achieving that.
And you serve in a key role in the US Senate,
a key oversight role
KENNEDY: Let me say it again–you judge world
leaders by their actions, not by their words.
I’ve heard President Putin give an extraordinary
speech before about how Russia embraces Western
values and democracy.
The last time Russia embraced Western values–
CNN: I won’t interrupt you again–the last
time i interrupt you, I promise the last time,
i’ll interrupt you
I’m going to hold you to that
CNN: I promise.
What actions, actions, have you seen from
President Trump that make you believe, that
he will stand up to Russia on their attacks
of the 2016 presidential election?
KENNEDY: He has, well let me answered in terms
of, well let me answer it straight up– in
terms of the election–the president put sanctions
at the urging of Congress on Russia for meddling
in our elections.
The president has said that if Russia does
it again we will double down on sanctions,
and I and I,and I think the United States
Congress respectfully will hold him to that.
Number two part of the reason for NATO is
to contain Russia.
You can’t do that without money.
The American taxpayers been putting up seventy
percent of the money.
The president said, if you want to contain
Russia by God, to our allies, put up your
share of the money, now that’s not pro Russia.
Number three, he was criticized for doing
it but in very candid terms, he fussed at
Ms Merkel, for on the one hand, saying we
got to fight russia over here with through
NATO and in the right hand, saying “by the
way I’m just going to sign here a multi-billion
dollar gas contract with Russia and give them
money to buy weapons to try to kill us.
And he called her out.
I don’t remember anybody on either side of
the aisle up here in Congress calling her
out over that
CNN: Senator John Kennedy Republican of Louisiana
thank you so much for the discussion this
morning–on behalf of shark week we do appreciate
(laughter) time thanks John