Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is trading insults with a longtime adviser to fellow Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who maintains that Paul is either a liar or in the thrall of conspiracy theories.

“I would give him the benefit of the doubt but I’m not sure which characterization – dissembler or crackpot – would be more generous,” Mark Salter, McCain’s former chief of staff and senior adviser for the senator’s 2008 presidential campaign, wrote in a column for the website RealClearPolitics.com.

Paul’s office responded to the column with a statement slamming Salter, who’s close with McCain and has co-authored several books with him.

“Mark Salter advised the Republican Party down a losing electoral path that paved the way for two terms of President Obama, so people should read his angry screed in that context and disregard it,” said Brian Darling, Paul’s senior communications director.

Salter’s column was prompted by Paul’s false claim that McCain had met with representatives of the Islamic State during a visit to Syria last year.

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