Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) says other Senators approved his longtime executive assistant accompanying him on dozens of taxpayer-funded trips overseas, despite that she does not have any specialized policy expertise.
“She travels at the invitation of the member of Congress who’s authorized to organize the trip but other members of Congress will approve her when she is invited to go on a trip as being a necessary and valuable member of the staff team that accompanies the senators or congressmen,” Cochran said in an interview with local television station WAPT.
Cochran took Webber to 42 foreign countries on 33 taxpayer-funded trips–visiting every continent on the planet except Australia and Antarctica–as Breitbart News first reported over a month ago. Experts said it’s unusual for someone with Webber’s job title to have attended so many trips, and Cochran has received criticism for it during the campaign.
Webber is also Cochran’s landlord – he rents a basement apartment in a stately rowhouse she owns on Capitol hill, and his campaign has paid her to rent the house for fundraisers, something that has prompted allegations from conservative lawyer Cleta Mitchell is against campaign finance rules.
In the interview, Cochran also refused to debate his conservative primary challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, for the first time since McDaniel narrowly beat Cochran in the June 3 primary, forcing a runoff election in two weeks.
“I’m not running to be a member of the debate team,” Cochran said. “I’m running for a vacancy that’s going to exist in the United States Senate at the end of this year. That’s what I’m trying to do, is get elected to serve in the U.S. Senate.”
“So you won’t debate him?” a stern-faced Bert Case, the local reporter conducting the interview, followed up.
“I’m not running to be a member of the debate team,” Cochran answered again. “I’m running to be a member of the United States Senate. I’ll debate in Washington on the floor of the Senate and in the Appropriations Committee for Mississippi’s interests and that’s what I’m running to achieve, not to have some made-up hokey-looking high school debate when there’s nothing to debate.”
Cochran was also asked about his campaign seeking the votes of Democrats.
“My arms are open and welcoming,” Cochran replied with his arms literally extended on the camera, “and we hope that they will join our campaign and go vote on election day or by absentee ballot–we have that privilege for people who are going to be out on work assignments or the like. We need a big turnout.”