Florida Senator Rick Scott joined me this morning:
HH: And my first guest since my return, Florida Senator Rick Scott. Good morning, Senator. Good to be back and talking with you.
RS: Good morning. I’m glad you made it back safely. I hope you had a great trip.
HH: I did. I’m going to talk to you about Hong Kong and China in a second. But first, the most important news story of my being gone is Odell Beckham, Jr. signing with the Browns, or being traded to the Browns. Now the Super Bowl is going to be at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium next year. So I’m just wondering if you’d make a little list and check is twice, and at the top put Hugh Hewitt gets Senator’s tickets.
RS: I will do my best to get you tickets. It’s a beautiful stadium. Steve Ross has put a lot of money into that stadium. It’s going to be a great game.
HH: And the Browns, it’s just going to be terrific. Now let me ask you about Beto O’Rourke. And I’ve got Howard Schultz coming on a little bit later. I read his book. I like Howard Schultz. I like you. I like the President, because you all came out of business. I like Mitt Romney, because he came out of business. Beto O’Rourke comes out of, I’m not sure what. Do you think a two-term congressman is ready to be president of the United States?
RS: Well, if you look, I don’t know what background he has to be president. But if you stop and think about it, what you want is you want people to go into politics that have some different experiences that they can bring to the table. And I really don’t know what his experience is. I mean, I’m not sure what he ever accomplished. But if you look at what the Democrats are doing, Medicare for all, which basically would cancel private health insurance, and we ruin the Medicare program, the Green New Deal, which is the biggest jobs killer ever proposed. They want to impeach President Trump, and how they’re going to do it now, I mean, these are just not, everything they’re doing, it’s not serious. It’s not good for our country.
HH: It’s not serious.
RS: And Beto will be a part of it.
HH: This is, by the way, the vast impression I get traveling to Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia talking with foreigners, what’s wrong with your country. It’s not serious. China is as serious as death. I mean, they are, they’re moving on everywhere on the world stage. And my foreign interlocutors in Vietnam especially are worried about China. But our country seems paralyzed by a series of inane commentaries and discussions.
RS: Well, let’s remember China is not our friend. They’re trying to beat our military. They’ve hurt American jobs. I think the President is right to hold them accountable. You can’t stop stealing our technology, stop infringing on our patents. And you know, if you want to have an open market, then you’re going to have to treat us just as fairly as we’ve treated you over the years, a decade, actually. So China is our competitor. They are not our friend.
HH: So when you talk to the President, do you get the impression we are going to have a deal with China on the trade war which is rocking the world? Or are we in for an extended period of confrontation, Rick Scott?
RS: I’m optimistic. I talked to Bob Lighthizer, the trade representative. I’ve known Bob a long time. I’m optimistic that we’re going to get a deal done. But you know, it takes two. I know from our standpoint, we want to do trade with China. It’s just got to be fair. They’ve got to quit stealing our technology. And they can’t have different rules. I mean, they can’t say oh, we want to be able to sell into your market, but you can’t sell into our market. No, if you want to have free trade, it’s got to be fair trade. Stop stealing our technology.
HH: Senator, while I was gone, I tried to keep an eye on Venezuela. It’s more difficult on that side of the world than it is on our side of the world, because it’s our hemisphere. But it did seem to me as though the crisis went to as high a crisis as can go. I guess the power is back on, but momentarily. It could go down any time. What do you think is going to unfold in Venezuela by the end of March, if anything?
RS: I’m optimistic. You know, Maduro is getting in a worse and worse position. I feel so sorry for families. I feel so sorry for these kids. I mean, 80% of the children under 5 are, have malnutrition. 90% of the families don’t have enough money for food. Now we have, you know, people, you could see all the pictures, people are getting their water by taking rain water from drains. It’s horrible. So I met with Ambassador Bolton this week, and I’ve talked to Secretary Pompeo. They’re absolutely focused to do everything they can to hold Maduro accountable. I want to thank the President. I want to thank Secretary Pompeo for what they did with the Libertad Act with regard to Cuba saying Americans can sue about stolen property. I think that’s going to continue to put pressure on Cuba, because Maduro’s only there because of Cuban thugs that are keeping him in power.
HH: Now you have also sought, along with Senator Rubio, temporary protected status for Venezuelans fleeing this dictatorship. How is that faring?
RS: Well, we’re still working on it. You know, what I don’t get is why don’t we fix some problems? I mean, let’s fix our TPS program long-term. But right now, look at what’s going on. Look what’s happened. I mean, you can’t go, Venezuelans that are in our country right now, they can’t go back. You know, we don’t want them to go back to starvation. We don’t want them to go back and be tortured. I mean, look, Maduro’s just a thug. He’s a murderer. He’s a drug trafficker. And he’s been supported by the Castro regime. And so I’m, right now, I’m very appreciative of what the White House is doing. I talked to the White House, I talked to Ambassador Bolton and Secretary Pompeo. We’ve got to make sure these sanctions get enforced.
HH: All right, now let’s talk about the President’s emergency order which appears to be headed to a defeat on round one in the Senate, but with not enough votes to sustain a veto. So the President will exercise his legislative powers according to the ’76 Emergencies Act. And he will not, and his veto will be sustained. So in the end, it would come to the Court. What would you say to a court about there being an emergency at the border?
RS: If you talk to everybody, first off, I don’t think anybody, this was their first choice. But the president clearly has the power to do this. I think everybody ought to go down to the border and talk to Border Patrol and look them in the eye. If you’re not going to support border security, look them in the eye and say that you don’t care about their safety, you don’t care about American safety. We have so many illegal immigrants coming across our border. We want legal immigration. We don’t want drugs coming across our border. The border’s completely, on Mexico’s side, controlled by the cartels. So we have got to fund this. And so I’m going to support the President on this. I hope everybody will support the President. It’s, I mean, look, I get that people want to talk about process. But we’re talking about the safety of American citizens.
HH: Yeah, I think it’ll be a fairly decisive win for the President and the courts under the Youngstown Sheet and Tube decision, but we’ll wait and see. Do you agree with me, though, that there are not enough votes to sustain the veto, if the President vetoes this, and he said he would this morning on Twitter, that means his emergency declaration will go into force?
RS: I think, I don’t think there’s any question his emergency declaration is going to go into force.
HH: Now if I can talk to you a little bit about Manifort, and more importantly about collusion and the Russia scandal, it’s morphed now, right? Now it’s different than what it was two years ago. This does get brought up a lot abroad. And I begin to think that Mr. Mueller doesn’t realize they’ve got to wrap this thing up one way or the other. What do you hear?
RS: Whatever happened, happened. Put it out there. I mean, let’s get the facts out there. If somebody did anything wrong, let’s hold them accountable. But how long does this go on? You know, Manifort was convicted. He did wrong things. You have to, you know, you do that, he has to go serve his time. With Mueller, put his report out there. Whatever the facts are, the facts are.
HH: That’s what I hope. Do you have any indication when that will occur, Senator Scott?
RS: You know, Hugh, you hear about it almost every day. But I have no inside information on or about when it will come out.
HH: I left the country on February 22nd, and it was imminent. And I come back on March 15th, it’s imminent. And it’s crazy.
HH: Let me turn to your service on Armed Services. The President’s budget came in, $750 billion dollars for Defense. I’m happy with that, a new generation of hypersonic missiles, happy with that. But they want to decommission the Truman at its half-life. What do you make of that decision, Senator Scott?
RS: Well, I just heard about that, I just heard about that yesterday. We have Armed Services Committee today, so I’ll learn a little bit more about that. I think one thing Chairman Jim Inhofe, the senator from Oklahoma is doing, is he’s really, I think, doing a good job of making sure everybody understands the risk of China, and the fact that under Obama years, we didn’t support our military. And now, we are behind. We have got to, whether it’s Russia or China, we have got to invest in our military if we want to keep everyone in this country safe. So we’ll have Armed Services Committee today. I’ll learn a little bit more about the Truman, what happens there. But I’m thankful that the President is so focused on our military and making sure that we have a lethal military that’s going to be able to defend the freedom of this country.
HH: I know the argument is that aircraft carriers are vulnerable to long-range ground to ship missile. On the other hand, absent the kind of war which nobody knows how it would go, a war with China, they are our most lethal forward power projection against rogue states like Iran and Venezuela. It is, it’s just inconceivable to me that any businessman would take an asset that’s not even 50% of its shelf life and put it away.
RS: Well, I know the military is going through all of their assets and saying based on where China and Russia is today, and where we anticipate them going, how should we spend our dollars. And so we’ll hear from Acting Secretary Shanahan today, from Joe Dunford today, to learn a little bit more about exactly what they’re doing.
HH: I hope you drill down on the Truman, because I just, I can’t imagine that happening. Senator Rick Scott, always a pleasure. Talk to you, don’t forget when the Super Bowl comes down to Miami next year, you have one Browns fan on the radio that you know, you’ve just got to remember at that point.
RS: I, well, first off, good luck getting there.
HH: That’s a given. Odell Beckham, Jr. That’s a given.
End of interview.