Congressman Trey Gowdy joined me today to discuss the vacancy on SCOTUS and his support of Senator Marco Rubio in the upcoming South Carolina primary:
HH: I go to Chairman of the Select Committee on Benghazi in the House of Representatives, Trey Gowdy, congressman from the great state of South Carolina where basically every member of the media except me is all week. Congressman Gowdy, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
TG: I’m thrilled to be with you. And there’s plenty of room for you, too, if you want to come on.
HH: Well, I may get down there before the end of the week, but it’s 84 and sunny here in Southern California, and I just spent a week in Manchester, Rhode Island and D.C., so I kind of like it here, Congressman.
TG: I don’t blame you. It is in the mid-30s and raining in South Carolina, so you might want to stay where you are.
HH: Yeah, I want to cover two things with you – the Supreme Court vacancy and then you’re campaigning for Marco Rubio. I want to talk about that. But let’s talk about the vacancy first. I know you like to deprecate your prosecutorial chops, but you are one hell of a lawyer. What do you want the Senate to do? What’s your advice and consent to the Senate about advice and consent?
TG: Well, I’m lucky. I’m actually riding in the car with a United States Senator by the name of Tim Scott. And I would tell all of my colleagues what I have shared with Senator Scott, which is it is the president’s prerogative to present a name to the United States Senate. And it is the Senate’s prerogative to either give their advice and consent or not. And I do hear the mantra that elections have consequences, and I agree with that. But the 2014 election also had consequences, which means that our fellow citizens did not want the Democrats running the Senate. So the way I look at it, Hugh, Nino Scalia, it might be close between he and Alito, but let’s, he was the most conservative member of the Court. Let’s just go ahead and assume arguendo that he’s the most conservative member of the Court. The president and Democrats often talk about this jurisprudential equilibrium, that you can’t replace a liberal with a conservative, that if it’s a moderate, you have to get another moderate. Well look, he’s the most conservative member of the Court. So either the president gives you the second-most conservative judge in America, or the Republicans in the Senate ought to say you know what, we’ll wait.
HH: And I had Justice Breyer sit in this studio, and for the benefit of the Steelers fans, he is a man of the left, and he always votes against the Justice Scalia wing of the Court. Justice Breyer said the check on all of this is a political check. The people can decide whether or not the Republicans’ decision not to take this up is a good one or a bad one come November. How would you defend it? How will you defend it in your district, in your state, on behalf of the Republican ticket if your guy, Rubio, is the nominee? You’ll be out there campaigning for him. You’ll probably be campaigning for any Republican. How will you defend the Senate’s decision to wait?
TG: Well, I would say this, that the Supreme Court, and in my judgment, Hugh, it is wrongly, but folks can disagree. The Supreme Court assumed a role in our culture that I think was not foreseen by our forefathers. So whether it’s the 2nd Amendment, or whether it’s the Commerce Clause, or whether it’s Scalia’s dissent in Roper V. Simmons, which was an 8th Amendment case, on all of the things these presidential candidates are talking about in terms of conservatism, you also see playing out on the United States Supreme Court. So I mean, the notion that you are going to give essentially a lame duck president who’s already filled two seats, give him a chance to replace the most conservative judge on the United States Supreme Court who may serve for 30 or 40 years when you only have 11 months, I think the folks are going to say you know what? We’d like to weigh in on this, too. Yes, we picked President Obama to be the president, but yes, we replaced Harry Reid with a Republican majority in the Senate, and we did both of those things for a reason. So Mr. President, you can shock us by finding another Alito or another Thomas or Michael Luttig, who’s now with Boeing, or you can find a really conservative judge. Or we’ll weigh in, in November. And if they want Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton to pick Scalia’s replacement, the people can rise up and say that.
HH: Now I think the next question, the very first question in the next Democratic debate to both Senator Sanders and former Secretary of State Clinton ought to be whether or not they will unequivocally commit to re-nominate the president’s nominee in 2017. Do you think that’s a fair and a fine question, Mr. Chairman?
TG: I think the number of political commentators who would think to ask that question is probably a universe of two, maybe you and Dr. Krauthammer. I think it’s a fantastic question. I also think it’s interesting that Secretary Clinton’s already been asked her idea of the ideal jurist, and she said President Obama.
HH: I know. But I want to see if she’ll commit, so we can argue about that person’s jurisprudential chops for the next year, because I think if she’s locked in, that makes this a very easy to argue election. Now Mr. Chairman, I want to switch, if you don’t mind, over to the election itself, because you’ve got one Saturday. First of all, turnout, what kind of turnout are you expecting?
TG: It’s going to be huge. The crowds have been gigantic. The interest everywhere you go, people are talking about it. South Carolina takes its politics very seriously. I think turnout is going to be gigantic on Saturday.
HH: Now given that we’ll have this huge turnout, models and predictions are hazard only by the dumb. And I’m just not going any more predictions. I got five out of six right, and I actually technically got six out of six right, because Senator Rubio tied for third when it came to delegates in New Hampshire, though he lost by a handful of votes to 3rd and 4th place to others. And so looking forward with a huge turnout, I don’t know that anyone is polling this accurately. How do you feel the race is going in South Carolina right now, Trey Gowdy?
TG: Well, accepting and accounting for my bias, I will be as objective as I can. I have been with Marco for the last three or four days with Senator Scott. The crowds are electric. He is impossible to not like, even if you may not happen to vote for him. He did so well Saturday night. I, again, I confess my bias, but I thought he looked really presidential Saturday night, and the audience was not impressed with some of the ad hominem attacks among other candidates. So I think Marco’s a lot where he was coming out of Iowa. He has momentum. There’s a buoyancy, there’s an ascendancy, and we’ve got to capitalize on it. And he’s got, he’s got, now I’m not a huge endorsement guy. But he does have the most popular elected official in South Carolina in his back pocket, which is Tim Scott. And the crowds have been phenomenal. Now whether they’re coming to hear Tim, or whether they’re coming to hear Marco, I can’t tell you. But they’re coming.
HH: Let’s talk about matchup, Mr. Chairman. It’ll be, Senator Rubio’s been on the Senate Intelligence Committee if he is the nominee, and has faithfully discharged those duties and has not compromised any classified information versus the Willie Sutton of classified information, Hillary Clinton. And you know this better than most what’s gone awry with that server and all of the consequences of that. And you can’t talk much about that, but how does he match up against her in the general election vis-à-vis the other five remaining Republicans?
TG: Well, Hugh, when you hear him answer the question, even think back to the first question that Trump got Saturday night, about the first three questions you would ask. Say what you will about Trump’s answer, Marco went back to that question when he had a chance. And I thought his answer was phenomenal, whether it’s building the Sunni coalition, whether it’s whether or not you arm the Kurds and the collateral consequences of that, whether it’s North Korea, he cannot help the fact that he’s chronologically the youngest person on that stage. But in terms of foreign policy experience, he’s got an argument to be made that he’s the most experienced when it comes to foreign policy. Not only is he on Senate Foreign Relations, he’s also on Senate Intel. And I think what he would say to Secretary Clinton is Madame Secretary, with all due respect, when you made the decision you made with respect to your server, you’re not qualified to be the commander-in-chief. I’ve heard him say it before. He says it at almost every rally we go to. He takes the classified information issue very, very seriously.
HH: Now Chairman Gowdy, you’ve been studying this yourself, and you’re under all sorts of obligations vis-à-vis that information not to share with the public anything that ought not to be shared with the public. But do you think the public understands, yet, the scale of, I call her the Willie Sutton of classified information, the scale of the breaches that occurred vis-à-vis what ought not to have been shared on a private server?
TG: And surprisingly, Hugh, that’s just what we know. And I’m a big fan, you worked for the Department of Justice. I worked for the Department of Justice. I actually wish we did not know as much as we do, because I like the investigations to be confidential like they’re supposed to. But just take the universe of information that you have now, and how do you feel about that. And obviously, you don’t know what you don’t know, and Jim Comey’s a really good man and he’s a straight arrow. So he’s certainly not out there talking about what the Bureau has found. If there were attempts to access her server, and Heaven forbid if those attempts were successful, I think in many ways that’s potentially a game changer with respect to November.
HH: You know, Mike Morell, former acting director of the CIA and deputy director of the CIA said on this show, he actually just agreed with my assertion that compromise had to have occurred from the Russians, the Chinese, and maybe the Iranians. He said yup. And then former Secretary of Defense Gates said on this show three weeks ago he’s very concerned, and the probability was high the Russians had compromised the server. What are the consequences of our enemies knowing in real time what our Secretary of State is doing, saying and hearing?
TG: It’s impossible to calculate, and that doesn’t frankly even get to the Special Access Programs. It’s, you know, there would be lives at risk, to put it mildly, with some of the information that we already know about.
TG: So it’s, I can’t tell you the number of folks who come up to me at town halls who serve in the military, and it’s not just a classification issue. It’s not just a threat. It’s this notion that we have in our country, the bedrock notion, that the same rules apply no matter who you are or no matter what your title is. And the number of staff sergeants and others who come up to me and say if I had done this, I would be in Leavenworth right now. And I always caution them and say look, you don’t know what the Bureau has found, yet. You can’t go based on news accounts. But there’s, I trust Comey. I’m going to wait and make any assessments until he has finished his investigation, and we’ll see what the Department of Justice does.
HH: Now you know, Mr. Chairman, I recall my being read in back in the day in the Department of Justice when I was the special assistant for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. And there were only three rules. If you leave this stuff on your desk, you’re fired. If you take it home, I mean, if you leave it on your desk, you’re disciplined. If you take it home, you’re fired. And if you give it to someone, you’re prosecuted. That was the read in. That’s all I remember. Let me close by asking you about inside baseball. Marco Rubio has Terry Sullivan running his campaign in South Carolina. This is way in the weeds, but what’s that mean in terms of local feel?
TG: Well, in the interest of full disclosure, I have never forgiven Terry Sullivan for talking me into running for Congress. So I have, I have literally, Terry’s been part of my life since before the Congressional run.
HH: Oh, I didn’t know that. I did not know that.
TG: But Terry knows South Carolina. Well, Terry and Heath Thompson, they are South Carolina guys, and they know the state really well. They’re also smart enough to know that Marco has not just a surrogate, but a friend and an ally and a partner who really is the most popular elected official in South Carolina, and that is Tim Scott. And I’m not a big endorsement guy, but if there’s, you know, some question about your conservative credentials, and Tim Scott stands up and says this guy is a bona fide legitimate conservative, then the analysis switches to electability. It’s no longer a question of whether or not this person is sufficiently conservative. So Tim gets him over that threshold. And if it’s a question of electability and you want to win, so you can pick the next Scalia, I think that helps Marco Rubio a lot.
HH: Congressman, always a pleasure, Chairman Trey Gowdy of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, always a pleasure to talk to you on 94.5 in the Upstate and across all of South Carolina, and indeed, these United States. I hope you’ll get up early when I switch with Bill Bennett on 4/4. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
End of interview.