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Florida Senator Rick Scott On Senate Rules Changes, Freedom for Venezuela, And Rep. Ilhan Omar

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Florida Senator Rick Scott joined me today:




HH: Joined now by United States Senator Rick Scott of the great state of Florida. Senator, good to talk to you.

RS: Hey, it’s hard to think of my new title as senator, because…

HH: I know. I got over that without doing the, doing a stumble. So I was proud of myself.

RS: Nice job.

HH: …after 8 years of governorship, how are you enjoying the new body?

RS: You know, I like the people. There’s a lot of good people up here. It’s frustrating that it doesn’t work. That’s why, you know, I mean, think about this. They say oh, we all want border security. We hate government being shut down. Oh, we care about these DACA kids. But do they do anything about it? No. I mean, look at this compromise bill. It, you know, the positive is it looks like it’ll pass. It looks like it won’t shut down government, which we shouldn’t be doing. But is it securing the border? No. I mean, I was out in Laredo last Friday and talking to border security, and they were telling me all their problems. These Democrats ought to go down to the border and say this to them. I don’t, Democrats ought to say they do not care about this border security and safety. They’re not giving them the technology, they’re not giving them the manpower, and they’re not giving them barriers. They ought to go to the town halls with the American public and say you know, we don’t care about your safety. We don’t care of drugs come across the border. We don’t care if terrorists come across the border. They ought to say we don’t care, because that’s exactly what the Democrats are saying.

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Admiral James Stavridis on the Latest in Venezuela

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HH: So pleased to welcome back Admiral James Stavridis, retired United States Navy, now with the Carlyle Group and a frequent guest when matters turn to global affairs. Admiral, though, welcome. Good morning, great to have you.

JS: Great to be with you, Hugh.

HH: I want to begin before we turn to Venezuela with something of a sidebar that you and I have talked about a long time ago, which is the culture of mentoring in the military. The reason I bring it up, last night I had a chance to spend a good hour with my friend, Brian Ferguson, a retired SEAL who now leads Arena Labs. And Brian, I did not know this, Arena Labs is wildly successful, but I did not know he had been your aide, and he looks up to you. And every time I turn around, I run into a Stavridis aide or disciple somewhere. And it struck me again that you, and you’re not alone in this, you and senior members of the military invest in young people a great deal. It’s sort of the culture of the military.

JS: I guess it is, Hugh, and I would say that the reason you keep running into them is because I need more help than the average admiral. But Brian came to me as a young civilian working in the Pentagon, had this dream in his eye to become a U.S. Navy SEAL. I was skeptical, but we talked about it, and it was clear to me that he had what it took, and went on to a brilliant career in the SEALs, and now is putting all that innovation that he learned in special forces to use in the private sector. I’m very proud of Brian, and thank you for mentioning that.

HH: Yeah, that Arena Labs place is just amazing. I love spending time with the special operators who are now out in industry doing different things. And how they bring not just mentoring but an attitude of teambuilding and innovation, I know this is in Sea Power, but you can’t run a ship with one MOS, right? You need to have a whole bunch of different people running a ship, and indeed, the entire military.

JS: Exactly, and the special forces bring that sense of let’s try it. And there’s not enough of that in various sectors in the U.S. economy. So when you see people like Brian go into that world, you know sparks will follow, things will happen. And it won’t always be successful. You know, you’ll miss more than you’ll hit. But you will succeed long term with innovation. That’s the message of special forces.

HH: Let’s talk about the innovation of American foreign policy vis-à-vis Venezuela.

JS: Sure.

HH: It is clear, Eliana Johnson and I were talking about this, that the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, and the National Security Advisor are using Twitter to lever Maduro out of there, to try and catapult him out of there. And Marco Rubio specifically, three days ago, tweeted this. Future of democracy in Venezuela is largely in the hands of six men – General Vladimir Padrino, Admiral Remigio Ceballos, Major General Jesús Rafael Suárez Chourio, Admiral Giuseppe_Alessandrello_Cimadevilla, Major General Edgar Valentín Cruz Arteaga, and Major General Antonio Benavidez Torrez. First question, do you know any of those guys?

JS: I know the second admiral you mentioned. And I think that these are serious men who are calculating closely which way the wind is blowing. And I am cautiously optimistic that this one is going to land diplomatically. And I think the Trump administration, which has had some hits and had some misses as we were just talking about a moment ago, is going at this one with a great deal of innovation and using all the tools – economic, diplomatic, political, social networks, highly effectively. And I think that we can land this thing. I’d say three in four chance the military rolls on Maduro, Maduro’s out of there.

HH: Now when you specifically address senior officers by name and then Senator Rubio goes on to say amnesty is yours, you’re speaking for Juan Guaido there. But they did, the national assembly did offer them amnesty.

JS: Yes.

HH: I actually don’t know that there’s a precedent for this. We tried this, I think, in Chile, and it went very, very badly wrong under Nixon. Have we tried this successfully before?

JS: You can make the argument that this is how we got Idi Amin out of his nation back in the 80s. But in recent diplomatic history, it has not. It’s often proposed. There were discussions about this with Saddam Hussein. Most recently, in my experience as the supreme allied commander in NATO, Hugh, in Libya. As we were launching that campaign, we tried everything we could to convince Muammar Qaddafi to simply leave and offered him a number of different, really, attractive next places he could go. Typically, these repressionist dictators hold on longer than they should, and someone like Qaddafi ends up murdered by his own people. I think Maduro’s a weak personality. And I think there’s at least a chance that he will waver, the military will push him out, and he can go off and live happily ever after on a hacienda outside of Havana.

HH: Yeah, Baby Doc Duvalier took the Idi Amin option as well.

JS: Yes. Yes. That’s a good example.

HH: It does happen. But then I go back to the military. And what Senator Rubio was saying is you can be part of the rebuild, because you have not open fired on the civilians. That’s the implication, is that you have not crossed a line, yet. Do you think that’s actually possible for them to immediately go in with President-Designate Guaido and begin to function as a real military functions, for example, in this country in support of the civilian government?

JS: I think so. And I’ll give you an example of where we didn’t play this one particularly well, was in Iraq. After we defeated the Iraqi Armed Forces in the invasion in 2003-2004, rather than saying to them now is your chance to become a professional military, we simply decapitated them. We fired them all. We put a lot of the senior ones in jail. And that army, that Iraqi Army, is what built the resistance, which we had to fight. And you can drop a plum line from that to the Islamic State. So I think that we would be well-served to give this military the opportunity and tell them this is your chance.

HH: Arguably the worst foreign policy decision of the new millennium was the decision to disband the Iraqi Army.

JS: Totally. Totally.

HH: I’m still not even sure who made it. Do you think it was Paul Bremer? Was it…

JS: I do. I do.

HH: You do?

JS: I think unquestionably, it was Paul Bremer. At that time, I was the chief of staff to Don Rumsfeld, who a number of people have tried to say this was a Rumsfeld decision. Bremer came back, you’ll recall, he was kind of the viceroy to Iraq.

HH: Yes.

JS: This was his idea, his proposal. Rumsfeld was skeptical about it, but Bremer pushed it over the top in the White House. So I think that’s one that Paul Bremer in the history books will have to answer for. And I agree with you, worst decision of the 21st Century. It has cost thousands of American lives and a couple trillion dollars.

HH: And hundreds of thousands of Syria…I mean, it’s just one of the all-time dumb things.

JS: Yeah.

HH: And it’s wondering, you know, if you had gamed it out, do you suppose that if that had been table gamed, that it would have come out differently?

JS: I do. And I think, again, as we often see, Hugh, and you know this as a student of history, we don’t spend enough time trying to understand the history, the culture of given nations and the institutions within those nations. This was a Soviet-trained army in Iraq. They would have snapped into place, and I think become a pretty effective force. Iraq would be a very different and much more positive place if we had been smarter about decapitating that force. We really…

HH: That’s a very good lesson for American military planners as they think, and diplomats, and Secretary Pompeo, John Bolton, the Vice President, and the President to keep in mind as they deal with the Venezuelan military. I hadn’t thought much about that, but that is an excellent, excellent caution. Speaking of Secretary Pompeo, a minute ago he tweeted out, “Great to meet the next generation of freedom-loving Slovaks at GlobSec. Their commitment to democracy is inspiring. I have no doubt they have the #CourageToBeFree. You don’t hear much about Slovakia, or indeed, much of the former Yugoslavian republic. How fair is freedom in that world, Admiral Stavridis?

JS: You know, it’s a mixed picture. And first of all, I applaud Secretary Pompeo for simply going to Eastern Europe, and to the Balkans. We have a tendency to put them sort of out of sight, out of mind in the global economic and security scene. So he’s been on a bit of a tour through that region. And mixed picture as follows: The Balkan nations are now consolidating and joining NATO. That’s a good thing. Tiny Montenegro, we’ll see Macedonia, now known as North Macedonia, join NATO. That’s what’s keeping the peace there in a part of the world that looked like Syria 20 years ago. The bad news is on the far end of that, Poland, somewhat in Hungary, we’re seeing repression not yet to the degree that we ought to unduly worry about it, but you see some of those nations pulling away from some of the democratic norms. And I think that’s part of why Secretary Pompeo is going to shore that up within the context of NATO.

HH: My last question for you, Admiral, this is concerning to me. The European Union reached a provisional deal today on new rules governing the import gas pipeline called Nordstream 2. It was a compromise of sorts. The Germans want Nordstream 2. The anti-Russian bloc wants no part of it. What do you make of this development which appears to guarantee that this 760 mile pipeline already under construction is going to roll from Russia into Germany?

JS: It’s a bad, bad deal from a U.S. perspective deal, Hugh, for two reasons. One is it will increase the dependence of Europe, notably Germany, on gas coming from Europe, on hydrocarbons, broadly. And then secondly, this would have been a terrific market for U.S. liquified natural gas. And with that pipeline, it diminishes the economic case for doing that. So this is a strategic and an economic miss from the U.S. perspective. We’re trying to continue to push back on that. The Germans are not playing nicely with us on this one.

HH: So as a former NATO allied supreme commander, what’s a NATO commander to do when the EU basically undercuts the entire mission?

JS: You are very frustrated, and I went through this in Libya, Hugh, when we did not see a number of the NATO allies step up and participate in that campaign, which was entirely legitimate and under the auspices not only of NATO, but on the United Nations. We continue to have a disagreement with the European Union, as you know, about Iran. And we’re seeing the Europeans also undercutting the sanctions we’ve placed on Iran. So we, there’s no easy answer here. We’re not going to walk out of NATO or throw up our hands and stop dealing with the Europeans. But we need to keep steady pressure on them. I think this is something Secretary Pompeo is doing quite well.

HH: Admiral James Stavridis, always a pleasure. Follow him on Twitter, @StavridisJ.

End of interview.

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Stephanie Ruhle on Michael Bloomberg: Is Press Secretary Ruhle In The Future?

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MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle joined me this morning, talking the “Green New Deal,” and Michael Bloomberg:




HH: That was Mitch McConnell. Ed Markey is co-sponsor with AOC of the resolution of the Green New Deal, came out and blasted Mitch McConnell. Don’t let Mitch McConnell fool you. This is nothing but an attempt to sabotage the movement we are building. (Queeg strawberries clip). We have been laughing at them. Not sure what Stephanie Ruhle thinks about the Green New Deal. She is, of course, with MSNBC. Watch her twice a day. Stephanie, good morning to you. How are you?

SR: I’m great. What do I think? Not too much, yet. I think that you know, similar to what I would say to what Nancy Pelosi has said, which is I haven’t even seen all of the details. Let’s take a step back. I think the spirit of the Green New Deal is admirable, because it reflects a movement. But as far as the actual details, what it is, what it looks like, how it would be implemented, it’s something entirely different. You know, you heard that from Mike Bloomberg, Mike Bloomberg who said yes, he definitely seemed that there is an interest in it.

HH: Yes.

SR: But what this actually is, is probably not the right thing. But it sounds like maybe it’s just a first blush.

HH: You know, Stephanie, I have been thinking to myself as we’ve seen car crash after car crash among Democrat would-be candidates, and they can all recover from them, but I don’t think Elizabeth Warren can recover from hers. But the other ones can. But that Joe Biden and Mike Bloomberg bring steady hands, lots of experience and fundraising prowess. And don’t Democrats want to win? Even if they’re older white men, don’t they want to win enough to really nominate someone who’s steady at the tiller?

SR: I think, look at you with the sailing reference. I think there’s a good chance they may. I don’t think the Democrats are playing another just yet. I think, look at the last election. There were many Democrats who would say in retrospect they didn’t even have a chance to stand up and say I’m interested, because it was clear Hillary Clinton was coming, and no one else was allowed to raise their hand. So we’re still very early in the game. So there’s a lot of people right now that want to raise their hand and do their dance and raise some money? Go for it. But do I think the Democrats are going to say no, we will not have a senior white male as our candidate? No, I don’t think they’re going to do that.

HH: You know, I think the Trump killer is Michael Bloomberg. I think Joe Biden has some problems because of age and his gaffe history, but I think the Trump killer is Mike Bloomberg. But you’re in New York City. You probably follow him more closely than I do.

SR: I worked for Mike for five years before I was with MSNBC.

HH: Oh, I didn’t know that.

SR: I was at Bloomberg TV, so I was very close with Mike then. I remain close with Mike now. Mike has spent at least ten years spending an enormous amount of money and research on running as an independent. He made it very clear a week ago that it would be a mistake for Howard Schultz to do so. Mike obviously considered a run the last time around, and he realized running as an independent would only ensure more votes for Donald Trump. So yes, in circles like New York City and Florida, where people know Mike best, they’re very enthusiastic about him. His challenge is name recognition. People outside of New York and Florida don’t really know him. And one of the problems is those people in New York and Florida are the same people who only vote in one state.

HH: You know, Stephanie, my boys, whenever my wife is nagging them, called her Betsy Bloomberg. And so there are some people that think he’s kind of a scold, but I think he’s also kind of a sophisticated manager. What I really want to know is do you think he’s going to run?

SR: I do think Mike is going to run.

HH: Interesting.

SR: But I think the fact that he was a three-term mayor, I think his extraordinarily strong stands on gun control, and Mike limiting the supersized drinks you can have may have worked in New York. Those things are a very tough sell outside of New York. The three-term mayor thing, if you look at Mike’s approval rating that last term, it was certainly significantly lower than the first two. And New Yorkers could say listen, I love Mike, I love his politics, I was happy to have him run a third term. That is a precedent that people don’t feel comfortable with on a national scale.

HH: So Stephanie, if he wins and he’s the president, will you go be his press secretary?

SR: I would definitely be open to it.

HH: I just thought so. That, this sounds like we found the Stephanie Ruhle favorite. And I’m, actually, I do believe he’s the Trump killer. I do. And it’s a question of whether or not he gets in. Stephanie Ruhle, follow her on MSNBC, @SRuhle on Twitter.

End of interview.

Senator Tom Cotton on Venezuela, BDS, and the Media Complicity in Disappearing AOC’s Green New Deal

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HH: I’m joined by Senator Tom Cotton. Good morning, Senator Cotton. How are you?

TC: Good morning, Hugh. Good to be on with you.

HH: Are you optimistic that today’s marches in Venezuela will finally force Maduro out?

TC: I hope so, Hugh. It really comes down to a handful of senior security officials around Maduro. As we heard last week in the Armed Services Committee when I was questioning Admiral Faller, the commander of our Southern Command, Nicolas Maduro is dependent on the, for his personal security, in his own bed at night, on the Cuban and Russian intelligence services. But if the leaders of the Venezuelan military and intelligence and security services end up turning on Maduro and recognizing that the only way they can save their own skin is to tell their troops to put down their arms, do not fire or otherwise oppress their own people, and move forward with a new fair and free election, then Maduro’s days will be over.

HH: Now I want to ask you about, I hope that happens, the Green New Deal, because so many in my business are attempting to disappear with it. They’re actually complicit with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez trying to get rid of her seven page white paper on it that she posted. Do you believe your colleagues knew what they were endorsing when they endorsed her crazy get rid of the cows and the airplanes white paper?

TC: Sure. I mean, Hugh, it’s pretty remarkable that when these Democrats put out the Green New Deal last week that you had many Democrats running for president leap onto a proposal that was going to confiscate every privately owned vehicle in America within a decade and ban air travel so we could all drive or ride around on high speed light rail, supposedly powered by unicorn tears, yes.

HH: Don’t forget the cow, the cow…

TC: Yes, and…

HH: They’re all gone.

TC: Well, we can all become vegans since cows are gone as well, since cow flatulence is a mortal threat to the world. Look, this is a classic example of a gaffe being when you say what you really mean. I understand the Democrats that proposed this immediately tried to retract that white paper that went along with their resolution. And too many people in the media have been complicit in the Stalin-like or 1984 technique of disappearing it, sending it down the memory hole. But this is where their heart lies. They believe that Americans driving around in trucks on farms, or commuting from the suburbs where they can have a decent home into the city to work are a fundamental threat to the world, and they have to have the power and the control of those Americans’ lives to implement their radical vision for humanity.

HH: Let me then switch to another radical vision – BDS – Boycott, Divest, Sanction Israel. Marco Rubio introduced an anti-BDS resolution. I’m sure you voted for it. But I think it’s beginning to dawn on people this isn’t just a nutty idea on the left. It’s spreading abroad.

TC: Yeah, Hugh, it has been spreading around the world, unfortunately. You know, the Senate passed that with a pretty healthy vote. But unfortunately, it really divided the Democratic caucus. This is what you see over the last 25-30 years, regrettably, since the Oslo Accords. Support for Israel has steadily increased among Republicans and independents, yet it’s stagnated or even declined among Democrats. This is not just an issue of radical liberals in the Congress, but this is where a lot of the heart of the Democratic Party lies. And frankly, whether it’s here in the United States or if you look abroad, there’s a connection between these two issues we’re discussing. Throughout history, if you look hard enough at an anti-capitalist and what they say, you often find an anti-Semite.

HH: That is absolutely true. Now I want to switch very quickly to the “deal” that was agreed to by the 17. A cap on beds, a cut in the number of beds is actually what you used to call the get out of jail free card. It is. It’s almost incredible for me to say that they would, will you vote for this?

TC: Well, Hugh, it’s premature. I know that the senior leaders on that conference committee say they have an agreement in principle. I don’t think the committee has signed off on any final report. I know there hasn’t been legislative text shared with the other senators. So I’ll see what it says in the coming days. But as you say, capping the beds that ICE can use to detain illegal aliens is simply a backdoor way to have open borders. It’s been the Democratic priority for a long time. Immigration is an area where the fine print really matters. The devil is very much in the details. So I’ll have to go through the proposal with a fine tooth comb. But I would certainly hope that we wouldn’t be decreasing in any way the net number of beds available to ICE to detain dangerous illegal aliens.

HH: So Senator Cotton, between the Green New Deal, between BDS and refusal to support anti-BDS legislation, between attempts to cap the limit of beds, has the Democratic Party gone off the cliff?

TC: (laughing) Hugh, that presumes they were on the cliff to begin with.

HH: (laughing) True. It does. But I mean it does seem like it’s an avalanche of tumbleweeds over the side.

TC: So I think, Hugh, that over the last two weeks or so, what we’ve seen is not so much the Democratic Party going over the cliff, but the Democratic Party showing its true colors, that they truly do want the power to radically remake every American’s lives by banning vehicles and banning air travel, and even banning cows. At the same time, they’re willing to engage in anti-Semitic language and boycotts against the nation of Israel.

HH: Senator Tom Cotton, always good to talk to you, Senator. I will talk to you again soon. Looking forward to your new book, which was tipped by, I noted, Axios got the tip, not the Hugh Hewitt Show, but we’ll let that pass, Senator Cotton. We’ll still talk to you about it when it comes out. Thank you, my friend. It comes out, I think, in early May. We’ll tell people more about that next hour on the Hugh Hewitt Show.

End of interview.


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