CLEVELAND — At 39, Tom Cotton of Arkansas is the youngest member of the U.S. Senate. The Harvard-educated veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars has rapidly become a leading Republican voice on foreign policy and potential future presidential candidate.
Unlike some other rising stars in the party, Cotton decided to attend Donald Trump's nominating convention and accept a speaking role on its opening night.
His home state's deep-red status — Mitt Romney carried Arkansas by more than 20 points in 2012 — made that a low-risk proposition. And it gave Cotton, in addition to a large television audience for his speech, a chance to mingle with delegates from Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the three most important early states in presidential politics.
He chatted about Trump and his own future inside the Quicken Loans Arena with me. What follows is a condensed, edited transcript of our conversation.
HARWOOD: One of the questions that has been raised about Donald Trump is, "Is he more friendly with Russia than it is in America's best interests to be?"
COTTON: Vladimir Putin was a KGB spy and he never got over that. He does not have America's best interests at heart and he does not have any American interests at heart. I suspect, after this week, when Donald Trump is the nominee and he begins to receive classified briefings, similar briefings to what I receive as a member of the Intelligence Committee, he may have a different perspective on Vladimir Putin and what Russia is doing to America's interests and allies in Europe and the Middle East and Asia.