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Senator Lindsey Graham On FISA Special Counsel, Tariffs, North Korea, and Rick Grennell

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Read or listen to this interview with Lindsey Graham.  All of it:

The audio:


The transcript:

HH: The best guest in radio, Lindsey Graham, is in the house. Senator, good morning, great to talk to you.

LG: Think how far has radio fallen.

HH: (laughing) Okay, look, before, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover. We’ve got to go quick, but I’ve got to ask you. Look, Rick Grenell not getting confirmed is an embarrassment. Jens Spahn is going to be the new chancellor, and we don’t have an ambassador over there, and Rick is the perfect guy. Would you go to the leader and get that scheduled?

LG: Yes, I agree with you.

HH: Will you go and ask him to get it scheduled?

LG: Sure.

HH: 30 hours is not too much to ask to have the most powerful non-nuclear nation in the world have an ambassador. I just can’t get over this. Is there a hold on him, Senator Graham?

LG: Yes, I think so.

HH: And who would be the author of that hold?

LG: Can’t tell you. Don’t know. You don’t have to disclose them.

HH: And so would you be willing to push for a break in that tradition on that? This is dangerous, actually.

LG: I’ll go to Mitch. Your point is well taken. And one thing you can do is you can push out somebody that has a hold. If you actually bring it to the floor, you smoke them out.

HH: Please do. All right, let’s talk about the President. Here’s my analogy, Senator Graham.

LG: Okay.

HH: Donald Trump is an excellent golfer on a very difficult course he has never played. He’s got a different caddy on every hole. And some of them are drunk, and some of them have never been on the course, and some of them are very good. And on tariffs, he’s got the drunk guy who’s never been on the course. Agree or disagree?

LG: Well, I would say it’s not that simple, because for 20 years, he’s been saying this. So you can’t blame the drunk caddy. He’s been saying this during the campaign since the 80s.

HH: He has been saying China, China, China.

LG: Yeah, this is the point right here.

HH: He hasn’t been saying Australia.

LG: This is the point. What he’s done, he’s, the world is against the United States. We should have the world against China. So he’s identified the problem years ago that China manipulates their currency, intellectual property theft, they dump steel. His solution is to go after the European Union, Canada and Mexico and other people who are not the problem. That’s his mistake.

HH: Agree. Now there is a belief on some people’s part that this is a negotiation tactic in NAFTA and for the benefit of Rick Saccone in the special. Do you think he’ll back off of this when the details are revealed?

LG: I hope he will reconsider the approach to the problem, which is China. I wish he would come up with an approach that focused on China’s intellectual property theft…

HH: Yes.

LG: …currency manipulation, dumping, and abandon international tariffs, worldwide tariffs, which hurt American consumers and our allies.

HH: Have you seen that the first two retaliations are aimed at Harley Davidson motorcycles, which are in Wisconsin, and at bourbon, which are in Kentucky. So how long is it going to be until somebody figures out they attack a Trump property abroad?

LG: Well, not very long. So the Bush did this under 201, not 232. Remember, this is a national security decision which the Pentagon disagreed with. They believe that the 25% tariff on all steel products throughout the world actually hurts our allies. The Department of Defense actually argued against this approach. It’s just a matter of time until agriculture gets hit, retaliation. We make more BMW’s in South Carolina than any place in the BMW chain. If you tax cars coming in to America from Europe, guess what? BMW’s made in South Carolina are going to get hit with a tariff overseas, and that will destroy BMW’s model of doing business in South Carolina.

HH: Am I also not correct that the cost of every airplane that Boeing makes in South Carolina is going to go through the roof?

LG: Yes, and we make more tires than any place in the nation. 32% of all the tires exported from the United States are made in South Carolina, and most of the steel that goes into those tires are not readily available in the American steel industry, so you have to go overseas to buy it.

HH: Well, speaking of drunk caddies, Peter Navarro is a friend of mine. I have known him for 20 years. He is an anti-development, anti-developer left winger who ran for mayor in San Diego with the hard core, left wing rhetoric, and ran for Congress with Hillary Clinton at his side.

LG: This is your friend?

HH: I know him well. What?

LG: This is your friend?

HH: Well, he lives in Orange County. I know everyone in Orange County. He’s a very affable, very nice, but he doesn’t know a lick about this stuff, Senator. He’s the drunk caddy.

LG: Well, all I can tell you is that the, China is the problem, and we’re letting China off the hook. We’ve turned the world against the United States rather than leading the world against China. And I hope the White House will come up with an agenda to go after China, not the world at large, which will hurt the American consumer.

HH: Okay, we’ve covered Rick Grenell, we’ve covered China and trade, and the tariffs. Let’s move on to North Korea, because, oh, actually, let me move to FISA very quickly.

LG: Yeah.

HH: Last night, Trey Gowdy and Bob Goodlatte sent a letter to the Attorney General of the United States asking for a special counsel on the FISA deal. Robert Mueller can’t handle it, because it’s his buddy, Comey, who’s involved in it. You have sent a letter with Charles Grassley. Now, we’ve got four senior members of the Republican Congress. Why will the Attorney General not do the obvious thing?

LG: I think probably Sessions had to recuse himself from even making this decision, because you’re talking about investigation the campaign he ran against. It’s probably Rosenstein who should make this decision. I can’t believe that we’re not going to have a special counsel in these circumstances. The Department of Justice and the FBI got off the rails. They can’t investigate themselves. The inspector general is a fine fellow, but he doesn’t have the institutional power really to do an investigation to deal with people who are not currently employed at the Department of Justice. If there was ever a moment for a special counsel, it is now.

HH: Well, Rod Rosenstein should be recused from this, too, because it goes to the conduct of the Department of Justice during his tenure as a member of the Department of Justice.

LG: Maybe so. Well, he was in the chain of reauthorizing the FISA warrants. I can’t stress this enough. Mr. Steele was a paid operative of the Democratic Party. Fusion GPS was being paid by the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign. He used his Russian sources, money given to him by the Democratic Party in America, to go out and dig up dirt on Trump. The dossier is totally unverified, and he had a political agenda. This is a dangerous precedent to set.

HH: Okay, last question on this…

LG: The FBI agents in charge hated Trump and skewed the investigation, I think, favorably to Clinton in terms of the email investigation.

HH: You just answered my last question, because that’s where it eventually goes, and that’s why there is reluctance to look back, because it will expose the Department of Justice in manifest ways.

LG: I think there was corruption at the Department of Justice in terms of handling the email investigation of Clinton. I think they had a political bias that resulted in ignoring facts that would have put everybody else in jail who had done those things, and I think the warrant, FISA warrant application, was rotten to the core. The only evidence they really had was the dossier prepared by the guy on the payroll with the Democratic Party, and they never really informed the court.

HH: You’re absolutely right, and I hope that if the Attorney General is recused, he ought to announce that. And if Mr. Rosenstein is in charge of this, he ought to be questioned about it when he comes before your committee. Let’s go to actually the most important thing, which is the head fake by Kim Jong Un on nukes yesterday. Do you buy this at all?

LG: I don’t know. I think the President deserves credit for his approach on North Korea, drawing a line in the sand saying I’ll never allow you to develop an ICBM with a weapon on top to hit America. A policy of denial is the right policy. Containment won’t work. They’ll sell whatever they build. So containment’s the wrong approach. Denial’s the right approach. Now he’s put a lot of pressure on North Korea, but this will be the fourth time we’ve talked about giving up your nukes for a guarantee that we won’t try to attack or replace the regime. This is not the first time this has been put on the table. Every other time, it was all a head fake.

HH: Okay, so I am very, very skeptical. We have never, I think, taken the step of disintermediating them from the banking system. Ought we to do that, Senator?

LG: Yeah, and I think the next step is to have a naval embargo, because they’re still getting money and trading with Russia, kind of a one-off. So the next thing to do is a naval embargo of North Korean ports where you can check goods coming and going and make sure they don’t avoid the sanctions.

HH: All right, subject number five. The last time we talked, we talked about Afrin and the Turkish move towards the Kurds there.

LG: Yes.

HH: You sent me, your staff sent me, I had not known that you had called this years ago that we needed Arab partners on the ground…

LG: Yeah.

HH: …because this is not Kurdistan. This is actually Syrian Arab country. What is the situation? Have we stabilized that? And what, did we actually get attacked by Russian mercenaries?

LG: Yes, we did, and we responded appropriately by attacking them. They were coming after Syrian Democratic forces on a base co-located with Americans. But we should have told the Russians if you ever do this again, we’ll destroy your airfields. So the Kurd-Turkish problem, Kurd air problem, has not been resolved. But the big takeaway of my recent visit to Israel is that Southern Lebanon is a rocket launching site towards Israel. Over 100,000 missiles directed at Israel under the nose of the United Nations Interforce Lebanon. They’re making precision-guided weapons under, in Southern Lebanon, Hezbollah is, supported by the Iranians with the U.N. sitting there doing nothing about it. So a war is coming if nothing changes between Hezbollah and Southern Lebanon and Israel. Iran is winning, and we are losing. And when I say we, I mean the Arabs and the Israelis and the United States.

HH: Now this is where I’m back to the special counsel. I’ve always supported Mr. Mueller and leaving him alone. He is now messing around with the United Arab Emirates, and they are part of this key alliance that has emerged quietly with Israel and the United States to face a growing Iranian threat. Is Mr. Mueller well advised to consult with people about the national security implications of this now?

LG: Well, that’s not a bad idea, but you can’t have a foreign government, you know, giving money to a campaign. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I have no idea where this is going, but I do know that the Qatar Arab inter-parties, you know, intermural squabble is hurting our focus on the Iranians and the Russians, and here’s my takeaway. Russia and Iran has propped up Assad. They’re in complete control of Damascus. The Syrian Democratic forces are falling apart. The Golan Heights is being infested by Assad Hezbollah elements. Southern Lebanon is a rocket launching site against Israel, and we have no strategy to deal with Russia and Iran inside of Syria. The King of Jordan is at risk. This is worse than the Turk problem I identified two years ago.

HH: Well, that takes me to what in the law is known as the political question doctrine. I know that you can ask Mr. Mueller to come appear before your committee in closed session and just talk with him about that. I’m not telling him to stop anything, and we can’t have foreign money in elections, and I agree to that. But go slow, slowly in this area, right?

LG: Sure. Well, because we’re, so we have a moment here, because the Arabs are now coming our way because of Obama’s handling of the Iranians. There’s actually a moment in time where the Israelis, the Arabs and the United States can come up with a coalition to counter Iran all over the Mideast. And that is the most important decision the President’s going to make, I think, long term. North Korea is an immediate decision. But what does he do about countering China’s influence in the world economy by cheating? What does he do about the Iranian march through the Mideast taking over one Arab capital after another? What does he do about the Iranian nuclear deal? He’s got to come up with a coherent strategy to contain Iran as they march throughout the Mideast and destabilize the entire region, and I don’t see that.

HH: All right, very last question has to do with the national security advisor. It is said that General McMaster will be looking for a fourth star soon, and that John Bolton is in line for that. What do you think of that?

LG: I love John Bolton. I think McMaster’s doing a great job. I wish he would stay. But if you’re going to replace McMaster, John Bolton’s a terrific guy. I think he sees the Iranians for who they are. They’re a religious, the Ayatollah is a religious Nazi. The Iranian people are not our problem. They’ve been trying to get out from under this guy. I cannot tell you the last eight years of Barack Obama how much damage it’s done to the Mideast and the world at large. And Trump’s inherited a mess, and so far, so good. I’m really pleased with the rebuilding the military approach of Trump, taking the gloves off when it comes to fighting ISIL, telling North Korea you’re not going to get a weapon to hit America, and trying to get a better deal with the Iranians, tear up the Iranian nuclear agreement to get one that won’t lead to a nuclearized Middle East. So John Bolton sees the world, I think, pretty much as we do.

HH: Yeah, you’re one of the good caddies on the front nine. Would you just stay away on the back nine from the immigration hole, Senator?

LG: Don’t, caddies…

HH: You always club him wrong.

LG: The player matters, too.

HH: The player matters, but you club him wrong on immigration. Senator Graham, always a pleasure. Thank you, sir.

End of interview.


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