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Rand Paul: The bigger story of Eric Garner’s death is about cigarette taxes

Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

In an appearance on MSNBC's Hardball Wednesday night, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was asked for his thoughts on the grand jury decision not to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo for the death of Eric Garner in July. Paul offered his opinion that there was "something bigger" at play here — not racism, but the heavy hand of government cigarette taxes:

PAUL: "I think it's hard not to watch that video, of him saying "I can't breathe I can't breathe" and not be horrified by it. But I think there's something bigger than just the individual circumstances. Obviously the individual circumstances are important, but I think it's also important to know that some politician put a tax of $5.85 on a pack of cigarettes, so they've driven cigarettes underground by making them so expensive. But then some politician also had to direct the police to say, ‘Hey, we want you arresting people for selling a loose cigarette.' And for someone to die over breaking that law, there really is no excuse for it. But I do blame the politicians. We've put our police in a difficult situation with bad laws."

Paul is reportedly preparing for a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, and has been pushing a highly publicized outreach effort to improve the GOP's reputation among black voters.

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