U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., was peppered with questions ranging from alleged lies told by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to the Trump administration’s immigration policies during the Friday meeting of the Northeast Arkansas Political Animals club meeting in Jonesboro. A record crowd of more than 200 people greeted Arkansas’ junior senator who has in recent months risen to national prominence.
Security at the event was tight. Jonesboro Police officers roamed the ground of the Hilton Garden Inn, and the speaker’s hall was ringed with law officers. Cotton blamed inaccurate reporting for many of the negative news stories surrounding President Donald Trump and Sessions.
“I would tell you not to believe all of what anonymous sources allege in news stories,” he said.
Many questions revolved around a meeting between Sessions and a Russian ambassador while the former Alabama senator was acting as an advisor to Trump’s presidential campaign. During his confirmation hearings, Sessions told colleagues he didn’t meet with any Russian officials. A news report surfaced yesterday that he did, and Sessions has since recused himself from any investigations involving the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
Cotton said he does not think Sessions lied. He said the Attorney General was asked if he had any contact with the Russians in the capacity of a campaign surrogate, which he did not, Cotton said. Senators often meet with foreign leaders and ambassadors and it’s completely justified. When asked by a Talk Business & Politics reporter why Sessions didn’t clarify the meeting, Cotton said he might have forgotten it happened.
“I don’t think Jeff Sessions had any intention of misconstruing the truth,” Cotton said.
Cotton said he doesn’t want a trade war with Mexico, and it would severely hurt Arkansas’ economy, he said. Trump has floated a border tax on Mexican goods to pay for the $20 billion wall he wants to build on the U.S.-Mexico border. Such a tax would likely start a trade war that could drive consumer prices up and force Mexico to buy commodities such as soybeans from other countries. Cotton wouldn’t definitively say he would oppose a tax, but said he would review any proposal made.
Trump’s proposed immigration policies will slow the number of immigrants in the country, he said. Cotton doesn’t believe these immigrants do jobs Americans are unwilling to do. He admitted a drop in the labor pool would certainly cause wages to rise in these sectors, especially in the agriculture sector. This would predictably lead to higher consumer prices.
“I don’t think necessarily it’s a bad thing,” he said.
Cotton clarified his answer by saying wage earners deserve to be paid for the work they do and it would entice more Americans to do these labor-intensive jobs.
On several issues, Cotton ceded ground to critics. The senator has admitted there are those who have benefitted from the Affordable Care Act. However, many people’s premiums have skyrocketed and coverage has been curtailed due to ACA. Cotton didn’t outline a complete plan to replace ACA but he did say he supports tax credits as a way to help offset costs for those who need healthcare.
Cotton also admitted the Earth’s temperatures are on the rise and industrialization by humans is a culprit. Current proposals to curb climate change are costly and would dramatically interfere with Arkansans’ lives and their pocketbooks. The solution is to continue to develop cleaner and renewable energies, he said. Natural gas is a cleaner fuel than coal and production must be expanded, he said. New technologies in recent years have actually reduced carbon emissions and renewable energies such as wind and solar need to be further developed.