South Carolina’s Senator Lindsey Graham joined me this morning to discuss Iran, North Korea and President Trump’s White House:
HH: Joined by South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. Happy New Year to you, Senator Graham, I hope it’s off to a good start.
LG: Well, yeah, it is. It’s an interesting time to be alive.
HH: It is. You know, I’ve got to ask you, the reports about the Michael Wolff book and the arguments between President Trump and Bannon, those all reflect the first six to eight months of the White House. Do you think the White House has settled down significantly since then?
LG: Yeah, I think General Kelly deserves a medal. I think they’ve got a great team on foreign policy. And yeah, I’m going down today to talk about immigration. We got the tax bill through. It’s a completely different White House. It’s much more organized, much more focused.
HH: That’s what, that’s what I think. And I just talked to Senator Lankford about your meeting today with the President. Seven senators, the President and the Vice President on DACA, on chain migration, on diversity and on the border security – can I ask you what I asked Senator Lankford? It seems to me a million people cross the border a day. If you slap an excise tax on those people, a buck a head, you can put, use that money for border security and put it in reconciliation and pass it with 51 votes. Why not?
LG: Well, because the Mexicans may put two dollars on our people.
HH: No, we put it on our own people. We’re not going to hit the Mexicans coming in. We put it on Americans leaving in order to pay for security. I don’t want to start a trade war.
LG: Well, I’m not worried about that. I’m not worried about paying for this. We’ll find the ways to pay for it. I don’t know if that’s a good idea or not, so I’m not going to commit to it. But here’s what I do believe a good is, to secure the border. And I’m willing to, the American people pay for it, the DACA kids, if they get legal status, they’re going to have to pay a fine. Eventually, we’ll generate money to pay for this.
HH: But you’ve got to get 60 votes if you use the regular order, and the Democrats say they will not pay for any portion of border security that represents a wall. Is that negotiating posture? Or is that a real not now, not ever, never?
LG: Yeah, it’s just all, well, that’s just all bluster. Here’s the truth. There are places you need a wall. Most places, you don’t. How about this idea? Let a guy like John Kelly, who is a four-star Marine general in charge of Southern Command, probably knows more about this than anybody alive, let him present a plan as to where a wall should be, and let’s pay for it.
HH: And do you think you’ve got enough Democrats, you’ll need nine of them now, and you’ll need every Republican, to get to 60 votes to do a comprehensive bill, and not one that overreaches likes ones in the past did, but you know, DACA kids stay, and chain migration ends, and diversity visas get made sane.
HH: Is that possible?
LG: You’re going to get 75 votes, or you’re going to get 58 votes. There’s no in between. You’re not going to get, you’re going to get a majority, I hope, of Republicans, an overwhelming majority of Democrats, or this won’t work. Democrats cannot say no to a reasonable border plan that includes a wall. Republicans are in a box when it comes to the Dreamers. You know, most people in the country would like to give these kids a place to stay in their own country, pay a fine, you know, can’t be a crook. There’s a deal to be had. We just need to do it.
HH: I agree with that. It’s not controversial. In fact, I think you’ve got 85-90% support.
LG: No, it’s not.
HH: …in the country…
HH: …if it is presented as the wall or a border barrier going up.
LG: …on both ways, for the border and the kids.
LG: So here’s what’s going to happen. The diversity lottery is stupid – literally drawing names out of a hat. President Trump is right. We need to replace that and take those 50,000 visas and use them more rationally. We need to secure our border with a wall component where it makes sense. The DACA kids, you know, need a pathway forward, those who are non-felons, and we’ve got to make sure you don’t have a down payment on chain migration. We’re not going to fix it all. We’re going to break it into two parts. But the first round, there will be a down payment on breaking chain migration.
HH: Excellent. Now let me turn to Iran. I reject the reports in the Washington Post that Iran’s protests are fading. I don’t think we know. What do you think, Lindsey Graham? What ought the United States be doing about these protests?
LG: Well, I don’t know if they’re fading or not. I know this. They’re real. And every thought about the Obama deal has not borne fruit. The deal would be, the idea was give Iran a bunch of money, the regime will see this as a welcome to the international community, they’ll take the money and do good things with it. Well, they took the money and they built up their military, and their people are very disillusioned. So what I would do if I were president, I would use this moment in time to tell the world I’m right about this deal, you’re wrong, withdraw from this deal or get a better deal.
HH: I agree with that.
LG: It is insane to continue to give this regime money without requiring them to change their behavior.
HH: And do you, Lindsey Graham, seasoned prosecutor and observer of many of these things over a long period of time, believe that the Steele dossier was used to support a FISA warrant?
LG: I can’t say this on, that’s classified, but I can say this, that a FISA warrant is a tool available to the country against an American citizen who is suspected of collaborating with a foreign agent. There is a duty on the Department of Justice to make sure that they inform the court when they seek a FISA warrant all the details around the information they’re using. I can say this, that the dossier used by the Department of Justice concerns me greatly. There needs to be an independent investigation into the Department of Justice of how they used the dossier.
HH: By a special counsel?
LG: Yes, because I don’t think the people in the Department of Justice can do this investigation, because most of them are involved in using the dossier.
HH: I agree with that. Last quick question, are we going to get Rick Grenell sent to Germany any time soon?
LG: I hope so.
HH: Thank you, Senator Graham.
End of interview.