U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, who on Saturday will host a breakfast with Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, said Friday that he hadn’t read Hawley’s controversial comments on sex trafficking.
Blunt, a Missouri Republican, and Hawley, the top GOP recruit to take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, will hold the event at the Westin Kansas City at Crown Center as part of the Missouri Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Days convention.
Hawley faced controversy this week after The Star published remarks he made in December linking sex trafficking to the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Hawley’s comments were strongly criticized by political opponents and experts on human trafficking.
“I haven’t looked at his remarks. He’s a very capable guy and I’m sure he’ll be able to explain his views on these issues in the right way,” Blunt said Friday afternoon in Kansas City. “I’m not going to spend the next several months explaining what he and Sen. McCaskill have to say about the campaign.”
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Hawley, who began serving as attorney general last year, joined the race after a very public recruitment campaign by Blunt’s predecessors in the Senate — Jack Danforth, John Ashcroft, Kit Bond and Jim Talent — and other GOP stalwarts, including Vice President Mike Pence.
Blunt will be supporting Hawley’s candidacy, but on Friday he downplayed his involvement in recruiting the 38-year-old attorney general to the race.
“I was not particularly involved in recruiting him to the race, but I’m going to be helping him and I think he’d be a great colleague,” said Blunt, who was touring the former Bannister Federal Complex, which is undergoing a redevelopment project that he has pushed for over the past five years.
Blunt’s visit came shortly after the release of a controversial memo by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee that alleges “a troubling breakdown of legal processes” in Justice Department’s ongoing investigation into alleged meddling by Russia in the 2016 presidential election.
Blunt, who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he had not read the memo as of Friday afternoon, but supported its release.
“My only concern about that up until now is their unwillingness to share it with the Senate Intelligence Committee that I’m on. But my view of this has been this is a place where more information is probably better than less information,” he said. “You never want to use national security as an excuse.”
The memo, which the FBI has said is inaccurate and missing critical context, asserts that the agency relied on opposition research, conducted by a British spy and funded in part by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign, when it applied for a surveillance warrant to monitor communications of a former Trump campaign associate.
Democrats on the House committee have crafted their own memo, which has not yet been made public, disputing the GOP memo. Blunt said he would also be in favor of releasing the Democratic memo.
“I think on the basis of more information, sure, I’d be fine to see whatever memo is out there.”
Asked about the status of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s own investigation, Blunt said he has told his colleagues about the urgency of concluding the part of the investigation dealing with election processes ahead of this year’s election.
“That part of this needs to get done quickly if we really want to do what we can to fully take advantage of what we’ve learned of whatever vulnerabilities there might be in our election process,” Blunt said.