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Senator Lindsey Graham On The House Intelligence Memo, Indictment v Impeachment, and a Showdown in Turkey

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Senator Lindsey Graham joined me this morning:

Audio:

01-29hhs-graham

Transcript:

HH: In the audience tomorrow night will be Senator Lindsey Graham. Of course, it’s always a pleasure to welcome him back to the Hugh Hewitt Show. Good morning, Senator.

LG: Good morning.

HH: You’re going to vote this afternoon, or late, early evening, on the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Do you want to tell people about that, and then we’ll turn to the intel business?

LG: Yeah, so I sponsored this bill in 2013. We’re one of 7 nations that allow abortion on demand in the 20th weeks of pregnancy, the 5th month. Under this bill, it would allow states and federal governments to protect a child from excruciating pain. At 20 weeks, you have to provide anesthesia to operate on the baby, because they feel such excruciating pain. This would outlaw abortion on demand in the 5th month, take us out of the club of 7 based on the theory that you can protect a child from excruciating pain. Nothing’s more painful, I would think, than an abortion. So this is a good issue. It’s a great issue for the pro-life community. The vast majority of Americans support it, and we’re pushing forward.

HH: Now do you have cloture votes? Do you have enough votes to proceed to the…

LG: No, we’ll probably, we’re going to be north of 50. The polling’s about 60. 20 states have a version of this law. It’s kind of like partial birth abortion. It takes years to get there. It’s just a matter of time that we’ll win the day, because it just makes so much common sense.

HH: That vote coming at 5:30 tonight. I’ll be talking about it tomorrow. Let me turn now to some other matters, Senator Graham. I want to begin high above the present controversy at the Constitution level.

LG: Okay.

HH: Do you believe the Constitution allows a sitting president to be indicted?

LG: God, I don’t know. I think if the President shot someone, that would be a situation where I would hate to say no. But generally speaking, you deal with a president through impeachment or after he gets out of office in terms of criminal activity. But I’m not smart enough to give you a definitive answer, but I would say generally speaking, presidents have been dealt with through the impeachment process or dealt with criminally after they got out of office.

HH: There is no definitive answer, because the federal courts have never ruled on this.

LG: Yeah, I don’t know.

HH: But there is, Hamilton wrote about it in 69, Federalist 69.

LG: Well, he’s dead, so what good is he?

HH: Yeah, (laughing) he said no. You’ve got to impeach him first.

LG: Well, he’s not around, is he?

HH: Yeah, he said no, you’ve got to impeach him first.

LG: Okay.

HH: Now let’s move to the House intelligence committee memo. Your colleague, Roy Blunt, just told me he thinks it should be released even though it has not been shared with the Senate, because there is much to be concerned about in this investigation. You disagree with that position. Why?

LG: Well, number one, I’ve looked at the information. I’m just as concerned as the House members about what happened at the Department of Justice in terms of handling Mr. Steele, the bias of the agents, conflicts of interest of Mr. Ohr. Rather than politicizing what happened, I’d like to give one of two things – a special counsel to look at it without a political bias, or the, somebody internally, the inspector general of the FBI to look at it. The day that you get a bunch of House Republicans writing a memo on what they saw, it gets politicized. This information is too important to be politicized early on. There’s something there. There’s a there there. I’m supportive of Mueller, and trust me, what I’ve seen would make any lawyer cringe.

HH: I am supportive of the special counsel as well, don’t want him touched. But I do believe there is now a problem with Rod Rosenstein supervising him, and I think he ought to step aside and recuse himself and allow Rachel Brand to supervise, because if he actually signed the FISA warrant that depended upon the Steele dossier…

LG: Now, okay, you’re a really smart dude. There are conflicts of interest about appointing the special counsel. There’s, Mr. Ohr, the number four guy at the Department of Justice’s wife worked at Fusion GPS. I think it would be inappropriate for Mr. Ohr to be involved with Mr. Steele…

HH: Yup.

LG: …if that was the case. So I can’t say what happened on the phone, but I can tell you this. I’ve been a criminal lawyer, prosecutor and defense attorney most of my adult life after I got out of law school. I don’t like what I see.

HH: I agree, and I just don’t know how the DAG walks away from this.

LG: No…

HH: And it is a mess. It’s a mess right now.

LG: We’re going to have a discussion about that sooner rather than later. But I don’t want to politicize it. This is something that goes to the heart and soul of the rule of law here. What kind of checks and balances should be in place? What kind of information should you provide a court if there was a warrant sought? And I’m not saying there was, but there’s all kinds of checks and balances, a lot of stop signs that I think were ran here.

HH: There is also a great deal of confusion, Senator Graham, and you’ve been overseeing the Department of Justice for a lot of years. The Department of Justice works for the president of the United States. It is a unified executive.

LG: Right.

HH: And if he removes the attorney general or the deputy attorney general or the associate attorney general, he is within his rights to do so. There will be political blowback, but I just want clarity on the Constitution. He runs the executive branch.

LG: Yeah, he can fire, he could fire Comey because he doesn’t like the way he looks. The one thing he can’t do is fire somebody for a corrupt purpose. Now that goes back into whether or not, you know, you can prosecute a president in office. But the president has the ability to hire and fire any of these agencies basically without limitation except, one would argue, a corrupt purpose. But we’ll see what Mueller finds.

HH: And then if he has had a corrupt purpose, they can impeach him. They just can’t indict him. Let me turn to the…

LG: You’re probably right about that.

HH: I’m pretty confident of that.

LG: Yeah.

HH: In fact, when you’ve got Akhil Amar, Yale Constitutional law professor and the OLC under President Reagan agreeing, you’ve got a pretty good, and Alexander Hamilton, it’s a pretty good group.

LG: Well, but, one’s dead and the other’s liberal.

HH: Okay, let’s move to the Dreamers.

LG: Yeah.

HH: I like this deal, 1.8 million people getting regularized with a path to citizenship, a $25 billion dollar fund for border security and the end to the diversity lottery. How does any Democrat vote against that?

LG: Well, number one, we spent $42 billion dollars on the Gang of 8 regarding border security, so $25 billion dollars is not out of the norm at all. And it’s not just on a wall. It’s wall systems, so the $25 billion dollar number can be spent very wisely, I think. The 1.8 is a very generous view of the Dream Act population, DACA plus. In terms of diversity lottery, I don’t mind taking those visas and applying them in a more logical way. You’re just basically puling names out of a drum. So I don’t know where we’re going to go on this. I do oppose cutting legal immigration in half. I think that’s a bad idea. But the President’s given us a proposal that is very credible, something to work with, and maybe we can finally find a middle ground here.

HH: You know, Senator, I’ve been to a number of events. You’ve probably been to three times as many where Dreamers come and talk about their sympathetic situation. I do not know how the Congress does not move on this. It really, what, when you talk to the minority leader and your colleagues across the aisle, do they really intend to look 1.8 million people in the eye and say well, we couldn’t support you this time?

LG: I think what they’re going to do is they’re going to move the conversation into a new direction. This is a big bill for the president to put legalization of DACA plus population on the table, because a lot of people on the right do not like it. But I cannot, and I hope you would agree that if you limit green cards in half and put all the green cards in the high tech into the economy, you’re hurting our economy. There are people working at resorts and golf courses that would make great citizens, and they need green card allocations, too, so they can stay here and practice their trade without having to leave every two or three years. So that’s one area that there’ll be a problem in a bipartisan fashion to the proposal. But I’ll tell you this. We’re in the ballgame here. I hope the Democrats will swallow hard, take a deep breath. I know President Trump is hard to deal with at times, and take what I think is a pretty darn good offer.

HH: It is a great offer, and I hope it gets done and done quickly. Let me turn to another specialty of yours. I talked with Admiral Stavridis on Saturday. I just replayed it. The Turks are moving towards Manjeb.

LG: Yes.

HH: There are 2,000 to 12,000 American forces there. We may have the first NATO on NATO conflict ever this week, and no one’s talking about it, Senator.

LG: Well, if you’ll go back, and it’s all over the Arab world, I did a cross-examination of General Dunford and the former secretary of Defense of Obama, what was his name, Carter?

HH: Ash Carter, yeah.

LG: I said this was the dumbest idea in the world to take YPG Kurds who are a communist, Marxist organization, arm them to take land away from ISIL and hold it. They’re not Arabs. They cannot hold Raqqa. Turkey hates them more than they hate ISIL. This construct of arming the YPG Kurds inevitably leads to what we see today. I was begging the Obama administration, you need to have more Arabs in place. The Turks will not accept this. People inside of Syria will not accept this. And everything, unfortunately, I predicted is coming true. I am not a big fan of Erdogan. But what we have done here is empowered a group of people that really are a thorn in the side to Turkey and destabilizing in the region, and they can never hold a territory. We should be talking about this, because this could lead to a greater war. I said this three years ago.

HH: Now what Admiral Stavridis said is that we need to dispatch a special envoy immediately to Istanbul and try, you know, Erdogan’s a difficult character to deal with.

LG: Yes, he is.

HH: He’s a dictator, and he’s jailed journalists, and he’s arrested lots of innocent people. I get all that.

LG: But that doesn’t mean you can’t talk to him.

HH: And we can’t have the Turkey military shooting at the American military. What happens then, Lindsey Graham?

LG: Okay, so here’s what’s going to happen. If we don’t find an Arab component to come in and hold the Raqqa area taken back from ISIL, if we don’t have a stabilizing force there and replace the YPG Kurds, why did Obama pick the Kurds, the YPG Kurds? They were agnostic toward Assad. Obama cared more about the nuclear deal with Iran than he did Syria, so he picked people to fight ISIL that could care less about Assad. He gave Russia and Iran a pass. He left Assad in power. The Kurds could care less about Assad. All the Arabs do care about Assad. They want to destroy ISIL, but they also want to go after Assad who killed their families. So this whole arrangement with the YPG Kurds came about because the nuclear deal with Iran, just another example of how bad a deal it is. Now here’s Trump’s problem. Are you going to continue a policy that will get Turkey at war with everybody in Syria including us? Or are you going to break from that policy and say to Turkey and the region we’re no longer going to arm the YPG Kurds the way we did in the past, we’re going to try to find some Arabs to come in there and finally find a way to put some pressure on Assad? Most Syrians want to do two things – destroy ISIL and push Assad out of power, because he’s killed their family.

HH: Now Senator Graham, Speaker Ryan was over in the United Arab Emirates last week with Ambassador Yousef Al-Otaiba, and with the Sheikh, and it’s the new entente, right?

LG: Right.

HH: It’s Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Jordan, plus Israel, plus us up against Russia and Iran. Is that not the way it works out?

LG: Well, that’s the way it should work out. There’s a moment in history here. You know, Obama deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for one thing – bringing the Arabs and the Jews together because of Iran. So they missed the moment there. The point is that we have a common enemy now in Iran, and radical Sunni Islam. All the Arab states are threatened by both. The Obama policies have driven the Arabs and the Israelis together. And we need, through our leadership, to cement a relationship that no one could have thought of five or six years ago and change the course of history in the Mid-East. You’ve got to contain Iran in Syria, break Russia and Iran apart. Russia wants bases, Iran wants a Shia hegemony from Tehran all the way to Beirut. They have two different interests. But if we don’t push back against Iran in Iraq and Syria, you’re going to have a real big war in the Mid-East. Look at Yemen. Yemen’s a proxy war between the Saudis and the Iranians, and I hope that we’ll come up with an anti-Iran strategy.

HH: Okay, last couple of questions. We do not have an ambassador in Germany, although Rick Grenell is qualified and out of committee. We do not have an ambassador in Turkey. What, this is what the Senate is supposed to do, Senator.

LG: Well, we should have done this a long time ago. We, Iraq and Afghanistan, we don’t have ambassadors. Part of it is getting delayed nominations. People have been slow to come. And when they do come, they come into the most dysfunctional place on the planet. So hopefully, we can get more of these people in place. You’re the only guy I’ve ever talked to who mentioned the conflict between Turkey, the YPG Kurds and us in the middle. I’ll send you the tape three years ago. It was inevitable that this was going to happen. We armed the wrong people.

HH: Oh, let’s stay focused on it later in the week, Senator. Do send me that tape, because it is the story that no one’s covering, and I appreciate you coming on to talk about it. Thank you, Lindsey Graham. Always a pleasure to talk to him.

End of interview.

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