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Senator Lindsey Graham, Chair of Senate Judiciary, On The Judicial Confirmation Freeze In The New Congress (And Syria)

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Senator Lindsey Graham, Chair of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, joined me this morning:

Audio:

02-22hhs-graham

Transcript:

HH: So pleased to welcome back great friend of the show, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of our favorite guests, second-best interview in America after the President, as a matter of fact. He’s going to be reelected easily in 2020 from South Carolina, and he is now the powerful new chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator Graham, welcome back, good to have you.

LG: Well, thank you. Send money. There’s no easy about this stuff. How are you doing?

HH: Okay, what’s the website?

LG: I don’t know.

HH: You don’t know.

LG: Lindsey Graham, send money.

HH: All right. Look, everybody knows that we are friendly, so this is a tough interview.

LG: Yes.

HH: I want to know, it’s been two months since the new Congress came in. Not one judicial confirmation in the new Congress. Why not?

LG: Well, we reported 46 out of the Judiciary Committee the first week, the most since 1981. We’ll be going to Miller, I think, from California when we get back. And the judicial train is running in the committee, and it will soon hit the floor.

HH: Now there were exactly two nomination hearings in the entire month of February. So conservatives like me who view this, other than military spending, as the most important thing that President Trump does, can you not get your committee to meet like at least weekly to do nominations?

LG: We got 46 people out in one day. So we’ve got to get those people processed. We had, we’ve had hearings for the 9th Circuit. We’ve had hearings for the 2nd Circuit. And we’ve got a real queue. Trust me on this. We will get our judges to the floor. There are 95 district court openings. 25 of them come from states where both of the senators are Democrats. And we have about 8 to 10 Circuit Court nominations to be processed in 2019. And we will hit our goal as much as possible.

HH: Now the 9th Circuit nominees, there are three of them and a fourth one ought to be coming. We’ll talk about that in a moment.

LG: Right.

HH: It is urgent that we get them on there before the barrier wall issue comes up from the district court. And that would seem to me to be an argument for expediting their hearing and their vote. Has anyone talked about that in the GOP conference?

LG: Yeah, well Mitch has, Miller is next. He comes up when we get back. And I’ve got two more. The White House missed the day to send them, the time to send them by a day, so we’ll hold them over a week. But yeah, we will get them on the floor. He’s got to work with Schumer. We’re thinking about changing the rules so that the 30 hour period to debate a judge is reduced to two hours, because they’re blocking everything. And Mitch is working on that as we speak.

HH: Your buddy, Roy Blunt from Missouri, has proposed a rule that would maintain the 30 hours of debate for Circuit Court judges.

LG: Yes.

HH: Have you taken him aside and told him that’s a crazy rule, that’s got to be two hours, too?

LG: Well, the point is that we had this rule by agreement when they filibustered Bush’s judges in 2013, I’m sorry, when right before Harry Reid changed the rules for Circuit Courts to a simple majority. But the plan right now is two hours for the administrative side, that the judicial calendar, Mitch feels like, is going to move at a pace that we can all live with. But you know, Mitch is, whatever you want to say about Mitch McConnell, he’s done a hell of a job when it comes to processing judges.

HH: Oh, I think he has saved the Constitution. I think Senator Grassley and you, and the members of the Judiciary Committee, saved the Constitution. But I think you all took a vacation. And I am, I know you got 46 out, and that is an all-time record, but twice a month, that’s not how we work in radio, Senator. We’re here every day. I want you guys to be there every day doing judges.

LG: Okay. Anything else?

HH: Yeah, let me continue. Nominees – this one is not actually on you, but you’ve got a role. The White House has not nominated one 9th Circuit judge. It might be Jim Rogan. It might be Andy Guilford, your old buddy, Jim Rogan. We’re waiting for that. And there are 8 California district court seats for which there is no nominee. What is going on at the White House?

LG: Well, we’re honoring the blue slips with district court judges. You’ve got two Democratic senators. I think we’ve got a deal in the making for 14 district court judges in California that will be executed here soon. And Pat, the White House Counsel, is doing a very good job of sitting down with our Democratic colleagues trying to find common ground to process these judges.

HH: Well, tell me about that deal. People don’t understand, and I’ve tried to explain to them that the Senate maintains its prerogative for home state judges.

LG: Right.

HH: But that doesn’t mean that California has to be condemned to liberals for the rest of their lives. What is that negotiation like? And those judges, the 14 California judges, what kind of a list does that look like?

LG: Well, it’s a trading, it’s everything you do at home with your family and with, you know, your church. You sit down and you try to swap things out. So Pat’s done a good job on the 14. They will be coming here soon. They’re in the mix already, quite frankly. Then you’ve got 8 more. Then we’re looking for people that we can find common ground with. They’ll get a few, we’ll get most. It’s like a two, three to one deal. And what happens if there’s a Democratic president, it will work the opposite way. Tim Scott and I, if we’re still around in the Senate, if you’ve got a Democratic president, well, they’ve got to sit down with us about district court judges. So the blue slip process is going to be honored for district court judges, because you said it best. You’re talking about your home state here.

HH: And I have no objection except they do nationwide injunctions now like they fall off like cabbages off of a truck.

LG: And I don’t want to take that debate…yeah. Yeah. So that’s a completely different issue, and we’ve got to address that. We’re going to make sure that if there’s a district court judge in you name the city, you name the state, you cannot lock the whole country down. That is a…

HH: San Francisco…

LG: …different issue.

HH: There you go.

LG: Yeah, or, well, what I’m telling, I’m telling liberals what about Greenville, South Carolina?

HH: Yeah.

LG: So the point is that this is, they’re off the rails when it comes to district court authority. But 30 court, 30 Circuit Court judges nominated under Grassley’s tenure. Chuck Grassley did a great job getting judges through. We’ve had two hearings already, 46 out in the first day. Probably 8 to 10 Circuit Court vacancies can be filled in 2019. I’m going to try to get as many as the 95 off the district court openings as I can in 2019.

HH: Yeah, there are 12 Circuit Court vacancies right now and one more on the 9th Circuit. I hope you’re pushing for Rogan or Guilford on that.

LG: Yeah, yeah, we’ve had two hearings, so the actual list, the actual process out of committee is about 8 to 10. Yeah, I love Jim Rogan. I’ll, you know, I’ll sit down with the White House and you know, that’s my buddy.

HH: Let me talk to you a little bit about when you negotiate with Dianne Feinstein. Is it in good faith on these district court judges, because I understand she gets a few.

LG: Yeah.

HH: And Senator Harris gets a few, except she’s not playing. But Dianne Feinstein’s a senior member on Judiciary. Is she actually just slow-rolling you? Or is she doing a deal?

LG: We got 14 that were done. So here’s the way it goes. They can slow roll us, but we can slow roll them. So at the end of the day, there’s a lot of states with two Republican senators, so if Kamala Harris ever got to be president, she’d face this same problem, and I’ve told her that. I said listen, you know, you’ll have some input. You’ll get a few picks. But that’s just the way the system works. If you get to be president, you’ll want it to work this way.

HH: And blue slips, though, for Circuit nominees are dead, dead, dead?

LG: They’ve always been dead. Of the last 19 chairmen, only two have really honored the blue slip. One during the Civil Rights movement, which was a way for Southern senators to block judicial appointments, and Leahy for a period of time honored the blue slips when Bush was president, and a little bit when Obama was president. It becomes a veto. So here’s what I told my Democratic friends. You changed the rules, not me, to require a majority vote for Circuit Courts. So now you’re complaining about the fact that we won’t allow two senators to take over the entire process? So the blue slip process for Circuit Court judges are not going to be allowed to become a veto.

HH: I’m telling you, Lindsey Graham, if you get this broken and you do a hearing a week on judges, they’re going to put a statute up at USCPAC.

LG: (laughing)

HH: You already got reelection as a lockdown, but you get these judges moving even faster, you beat the…

LG: Well, we’ve got to get them through the floor. I mean, the committee, we control that. I mean, we’ve got good members of the committee. I’ve got the most awesome Judiciary Committee maybe in the history of the committee, just all-star conservatives. But Mitch has got to deal with Schumer. And you know, when we get them out of committee, and Mitch has done one hell of a job, I think. We’ll have more judges on the court than any time in modern history when this is all done.

HH: You’re going to have to invoke the Reid Rule to change the debate limits. When is that going to happen? I’ve been waiting for that to happen, too, and that hasn’t happened?

LG: Well, we need 50 votes. I’m ready to vote, because you’ve got to realize, you’ve got to accept this on your watch. When it comes to these nominations, there’s like 300 people in the Trump administration, I’m getting ahead of myself, Trump administration just sitting for about a year. And these people have given up their lives to serve the government, and that’s where the problem is. A lot of senior positions in the Trump administration are unfilled, because we cannot process the nominee, a bunch of ambassadorships, and that’s what’s pushing the rules change. And Roy’s done a good job putting this package together.

HH: Yes, faster, please. You know, Cully Stimson is a good friend of mine, and the Navy needs a general counsel. And he never got a vote.

LG: Yeah, so this is a, you know, we did 46 judges in one day that were all holdovers from the last Congress. And that was a hell of a fight. But I said listen, all these people have had hearings. Some have had, been on the floor waiting. So we’re going to get them through, and we did.

HH: Yeah.

LG: And so now they’re ready to go to the floor. But there are a lot of people like the friend you just named that have, you know, turned their lives upside down to serve the government. They’re stuck in purgatory. And this is what the rules change is all about.

HH: You know, I know the 46 nominees. It’s always with me, though, what have you done for me lately. And that’s like next week. Let me switch subjects now.

LG: That sounds like my family.

HH: Yeah, let me switch subjects. The Roman Catholic Church is engage in a massive…I’m a Roman Catholic. I’m a devout Catholic.

LG: Right.

HH: They are engaged in a massive coverup in many states over misdeeds done by their clergy over decades. The Democratic Attorney General of Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro, has actually led the way here, and I’ve talked to him about this. I think if your committee held hearings on this, it would greatly advance the cause of justice for these victims.

LG: That’s not a bad idea.

HH: Any plan to do that?

LG: No, I hadn’t thought about it until you said something. Now the Southern Baptists Convention is going through this. There are a lot of abuses not reported over time where people go from one church to the next, even though it’s more decentralized, the Southern Baptist system is. It’s still a problem, and yeah, maybe, you know, I hadn’t thought about it until you just mentioned it. And what kind of system is it that really doesn’t report, because a lot of these people just move from parish to parish, church to church.

HH: Now if you got a hearing going, it would be, I think, like the Kefauver hearings. I think everybody would show up and watch that.

LG: I think that’s a, you know, that’s, well, this is why I call into the radio show. I learn something.

HH: All right, now here’s one you have said you’re going to have a hearing with Mr. McCabe. I am hoping that when you pull in Mr. Comey, Mr. McCabe, Mr. Strzok, Ms. Page, the general counsel, that you, Lindsey Graham, you’re a smart chairman. And you’re pretty good at your questions. But some of your colleagues are not so good. I’m hoping you will appoint one seasoned prosecutor to conduct all the questioning except the chairman’s introductory remarks so that they can actually, McCabe in an interview the other day said they had four meetings. And the questioner didn’t say, pause, where were those meetings? Who was in them? And how long did they go? I mean, the stuff that prosecutors like you, you’re a real honest to God prosecutor, would do. Would you consider just appointing one prosecutor to lead all the committee’s questionings of McCabe and Comey, Page, Strzok and the rest?

LG: You cannot possibly do a good interview with a five minute time limit. So we will make sure every member gets to ask questions, but I’ve already talked to my staff about this. I’ll probably give myself a bloc of time and just see how it goes.

HH: Give yourself all the time. You’re a prosecutor. Most of these people are not. Martha McSally, God love her, she’s not a prosecutor. She’s a fighter pilot.

LG: Well, this is not complicated. Oh, sit down, did you say this, did you say that, tell me about how you get a warrant. So the bottom line, there’s three phases to this hearing. There’s the 25th Amendment debacle, right?

HH: Yeah.

LG: There’s the surveillance of the Trump campaign after the election. And there’s the counterintelligence investigation back in 2016. I want to find out the best I can how did it get so off the rails?

HH: And that’s a timeline question to begin with.

LG: Yes.

HH: That’s where serious, you know, I’ve watches so many House hearings descend into chaos because no one does a serious cross examination of witnesses, so I’m glad you’re going to do that. Let’s move on to Syria. First question…

LG: Right.

HH: Your exchange with the acting secretary of Defense was interesting. I can’t repeat it on the radio or I’ll be fined significantly.

LG: Yeah (laughing)

HH: Do we need a new secretary of Defense, a permanent one?

LG: Well, we do need a permanent one, and Shanahan’s, he was just on the receiving end of a lot of frustration. The good news is that the President announced yesterday that we will maintain a presence in Northeastern Syria, a couple hundred of our guys and gals to attract about a thousand European types to create a safe zone so Turkey and the Kurds don’t have a conflict, Iran won’t move in, and ISIS won’t come back. And I want to compliment President Trump. This is the kind of commander-in-chief leadership that Obama could not muster. You know, you run a campaign, and you get to be president. Then you have to adjust to situations as they are. So Obama just ignored sound military advice, withdrew all of our troops from Iraq, and President Trump, to his undying credit, listened to his military. We’re going to interdict the highway from Tehran to Beirut that Iran has been using to send weapons into Lebanon and Syria. And we’ll have a presence up north, the main presence will come from European types whose cities have been attacked from Raqqa, Syria. This is a damn good plan by the President and his team.

HH: Now Senator Graham, you spend a lot of time talking to the President, and you, like me, were a reluctant Trump voter. We had our concerns. But he does appear to listen to persuasive arguments made repeatedly.

LG: Have our concerns? I ran out of everything, I called the guy every name I could think of. I voted for a guy who wouldn’t know if he walked in the frickin’ door. But here’s what I’ve learned. Donald Trump is smarter than a lot of people give him credit for. As a matter of fact, he’s very smart. He asks good questions. And from my point of view, he is becoming more like Reagan every day. The speech about socialism was his Reagan moment.

HH: In Venezuela, yeah.

LG: Venezuela. And his destroying the caliphate, getting Rocket Man to the table, breaking the Iranian agreement in two, rebuilding the military, putting terrorism on the run throughout the world, in my view, I am very pleased. He has been a very, very good president, domestically and internationally. We’re strong again, we’re prosperous again. He’s appointing great judges. You can’t ask for a better judicial pick than he’s chosen. And I’m all in.

HH: Well, I understand that, and you’re getting blasted on social media. Does it bother you, because you’ve actually, you’re a fact-based senator. Does it bother you?

LG: No.

HH: Good.

LG: Next question.

HH: Let me turn now to Bernie, your colleague…

LG: If you want to be a hero, as a Republican, just give another Republican a hard time. I know how the game’s played. The point is they hate Trump. Trump is literally driving them crazy. So then that takes us to Bernie.

HH: Yeah, Bernie is your colleague, and I’ve begun Republicans For Bernie in the primary. I will be reregistering in Virginia in order to vote for Bernie.

LG: (laughing)

HH: Do you, what would he be like as a president? You’ve known him a long time.

LG: I think you would have a military with like a rowboat and a pistol. The CIA probably would have three people working. You would have five jobs to pay the tax rates, and a lot of people wouldn’t pay much of anything. Bernie is a good man. He believes this stuff. He is not ashamed of being a socialist. The question is do we want a socialist? But the agenda he would set for the country would create domestic upheaval in terms of economic growth, and we would be seen weaker than water throughout the world. Now that’s just the consequence of his agenda. He’s a pacifist when it comes to national security, and he’s a command and control socialist when it comes to the economy. But he’s a very nice man.

HH: Are they aware, your socialist friends in the House and the Senate, that they drove Amazon out of New York, and with it, 25-50,000 jobs? It would have also been an incubator for other new startups? Do they know what they did?

LG: They may not know, but everybody else knows.

HH: Golly.

LG: Don’t tell them. Don’t tell them.

HH: Don’t tell them. All right, I want to talk about the Mueller report.

LG: Okay.

HH: It is going to be turned in next week, according to most sources. And Attorney General Barr, whom you did a great job expediting his nomination through…

LG: Was that fast enough?

HH: That’s not enough. Don’t you dare do Rosen before the 9th Circuit is filled. You tell Rosen he’s got to wait for the 9th Circuit.

LG: Okay.

HH: What do you expect in the Mueller report?

LG: I really don’t know, but I believe if there’s been any collusion, sort of a legal head shot, Mueller would have taken it a long time ago. No one’s being charged with a conspiracy. Collusion is conspiracy. No one’s been charged with conspiring with anybody. So that makes me think there is no collusion. And the other stuff is pretty much going to be a yawner. What we’re all looking for is did the Trump campaign work with the Russians? And based on what I see, I’m pretty confident the answer is going to be no.

HH: That’s why I’m playing Peggy Lee’s Is That All There Is, because that’s not going to happen.

LG: That’s right. That’s right.

HH: Let me ask you now about two, your Judiciary Committee, so everything is under, actually, the rule of law is under your province. We have two cases right now – Jussie Smollett and Christopher Hasson. Hasson is a terrorist who was going to kill a bunch of Democrats, much like the Bernie Sanders nutter was going to try and kill every Republican.

LG: You’re talking about the Coast Guard guy?

HH: Yeah. And Smollett is just a victimhood seeking celebrity. He doesn’t really bother me, though he caused a lot of trouble. What bothers me are the Hasson’s. How many of these people are there, left and right, in the country who have been driven to the edge of madness and will…have you any idea?

LG: No, and I think when you look at, that takes us to another topic I want to tell you about – the red flag legislation. You know, the guy who did the shooting at the baseball practice, now that guy was a Bernie supporter, and went nuts. This guy apparently seems to be really mentally unhinged. The Parkland shooter did everything but take an ad out in the paper I’m going to go kill people.

HH: Yeah, your own state, the Mother Emmanuel killer. I know you talked about him.

LG: Yeah, yeah, that guy was, you know, a ticking time bomb. So a lot of states are passing laws that would allow law enforcement to petition courts when somebody’s about to blow, plenty of due process, but to allow the courts to intervene before the shooting actually happens. I’d like to do something nationally to incentivize states to do that, due process for the gun owner.
HH: Excellent idea.

LG: The time has come. Most of these people have commonalities. They get really whacky, and they start talking and doing things that somebody needs to report. And the next thing you know, you can stop them. God bless those who intervened in the Hasson case.

HH: Governor Doug Ducey introduced legislation, the Severe Threat Order of Protection, STOP order.

LG: Right.

HH: And that is what we need on a national basis.

LG: That’s what we need. Protect the gun owner, but a chance to intervene before it’s too late.

HH: Two more subjects, Senator. There was an assault on a conservative on the campus of the University of Berkeley yesterday. And it’s on videotape. It’s everywhere. Conservatives are being hounded on college campuses. When military recruiters were not allowed onto college, on law school campuses in the area of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell…

LG: Right.

HH: We took their money away.

LG: Right.

HH: Do you think it’s appropriate to take away money from universities if they do not guarantee free speech on their campuses?

LG: So that’s the really next topic to talk about. You know, all the federal funding, you know, the student loans and all the Title this and Title that money basically was denied to college campuses who discriminated against our military recruiters. That’s a conversation very much worth having. I don’t want to become the nanny state and have the federal government police everything that everybody does. Sometimes, you just have to suck it up and push back. But when you have institutional bias like this, maybe that’s the only recourse.

HH: All right, last question, the PRC. You just led the delegation to the Munich Security Conference, which was another wake for the JCPOA.

LG: Right.

HH: Honest to God, it’s longer than any Irish funeral I’ve ever been to. They’re crying about the JCPOA every day.

LG: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

HH: But in fact, it diverts us from the fact that the People’s Republic of China is not our friend, and they are not a near-peer competitor. They are a competitor with asymmetric capabilities that threaten our carriers, that threaten our cyber networks.

LG: Right.

HH: You’re on Judiciary, butt you’ve got to deal with Huawei and all these other things. What part of the Judiciary Committee agenda is Lindsey Graham devoting to the Chinese threat?

LG: A lot. We’re actually going to have a hearing about the Chinese threat within our lane. Yeah, at Commerce Committee, I want to do something about social media, too. If you sign up for one of these social media services, I want to make sure you understand they’re going to monetize who you are. That’s how they make their money. So maybe you should opt in rather than just being included right off the bat. But when it comes to China, the 5G networks they’re building, we’re telling the Europeans if you use the Chinese Huawei system, we may lock you out of our system, because we found it be basically industrial sized espionage. Their technology comes with a price. And we’re going to have a hearing about the threats we face from Chinese technology and business practices.

HH: I look forwars to that. I hope, I’ll close by just reminding you I hope you call Josh Shapiro, the PA Attorney General, and get some hearings going about the Church’s coverup and that you’ll call Pat Cipillone and say we need that 9th Circuit nominee, we need those district court judges, because honest to goodness, if they get filled by a Democratic president in the future, we’ll get nationwide injunctions like an avalanche out here.

LG: Yeah, we’re going to try and get as many of these district court judges as possible, but my goal is to get all these circuits filled in 2019.

HH: Start with a nominee like Jim Rogan. Always great to talk to you, Senator Graham. Call anytime, and we’ll send money.

LG: Okay.

HH: I can’t send money because of my contract. But we’ll tell everyone once you get a website up and running. You’re not going to get a primary challenge, are you?

LG: Well, I hope not, but I take nothing for granted in this business.

HH: As Mitch McConnell says, you can always start too late, but you can never start too early. Lindsey Graham, thank you for joining me.

LG: Thanks, pal. Bye bye.

End of interview.

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