Senator Lindsey Graham joined me on today’s show to discuss this story about the affection shown the Clintons and their foundation by folks in the uranium business, including Russians in the uranium business:
HH: Joined now by United States Senator Lindsey Graham. Follow him on Twitter, @Grahamblog. Senator, before I go to the Loretta Lynch vote and the Iran deal, I just have to ask you about this New York Times story on the uranium company that was sold to Russia by the Canadians and reviewed by a State Department led by Mrs. Clinton after Bill Clinton got a half million dollars. Are your eyebrows up over this?
LG: Yeah, you know, at the end of the day, this story won’t go away. I think the average American is going to find the whole concept of the foundation taking money from Russia interests and other interests throughout the world, and potentially affecting the outcomes at the State Department something worth watching and reviewing.
HH: Is it worth having Senate hearings into?
LG: We may get there. At the end of the day, I don’t know what the appropriate response is. But the more information that comes out in line with what you’re saying, the more appropriate it would be. I’m in charge of the State Department’s budget. I’m in charge of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations. We write money for the State Department. Is this within my purview? I’ll have to look long and hard and find out if it is. But oversight of the executive branch has to be done by the legislative branch. If there’s a nexus here, then we’ll have hearings.
HH: Now Senator, the last question in this regard, if you hold those hearings, I would like to know if the Clinton Foundation received any money from anyone having anything to do with the government of Iran. Is that a legitimate question?
LG: Yes, and I hope the answer is no for the sake of everybody.
HH: Well, I would have thought the answer was no with regards to Vladimir Putin, wouldn’t you?
LG: You would think. This is not the reset we were looking for.
HH: And so I would like to get someone from the Foundation to come up under oath and tell us just that, did they get any money from anyone connected in doing business with Iran, because this deal looks like a purchase deal, doesn’t it? The terms are so good for Iran, you wonder if money has changed hands.
LG: Well, the one thing as a lawyer, and you’re a lawyer, we’re not going to judge it based on and excerpt from a book. But you know, people listen to your show. I get as much coverage doing your show as anything I do, so I want to let people understand I haven’t made up my mind. I don’t know if this is something subject to Congressional oversight. I’m having my staff look at see whether or not this would cause a hearing, or would justify a hearing in terms of what happened inside the State Department based on donations to the Foundation. Is there a nexus here worthy of the overview and oversight? I don’t know.
HH: Now I want to ask you about the Washington Post. Yesterday, they had a story about the United States naval strength, and they gave you and Scott Walker three Pinocchios. I had that reporter on and we mixed it up pretty good, because I don’t think…
LG: Yeah, I heard that.
HH: Yeah, I thought she deserved three Pinocchios, because she was professional and she came on, so I’m glad she did.
HH: But what did you make of that piece? And even as we’ve got the Teddy Roosevelt headed towards the Yemen coast?
LG: Well, here’s what I think of the situation we find ourselves with the United States Navy, the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps – pathetically weak, and I don’t care how many Pinocchios they give me at the Washington Post. We need to rebuild the United States Navy. Under sequestration, we’re going to be well below 300 ships, a Navy not capable of dealing with multiple threats. And here’s what I would say to your audience. Historically, we’ve been spending about five and a half percent of GDP, all the goods and services in the nation, have been allocated to Defense. By the end of sequestration, 2021, we’ll be spending about 2.3% of our GDP on our Department of Defense, about half of historical averages. That is insane given the way the world is. And if I run for president, and I get to be the president, we’re going to rebuild the Navy.
HH: Now let’s talk about the Iran deal, because we have limited time and you’re going off to television to talk about this. It gets worse, it seems, every day, Senator Graham. Do the numbers opposed to it grow in your whip count or your informal assessment of where the Democrats are on the Iranian deal?
LG: Yeah, I think we’re going to have an overwhelming vote to review the deal. The deal itself, the framework, seems to be different in the eyes of the Iranians versus that of the administration. So when you heard, when the head of the Iranian military, not the Revolutionary Guard or the Quds Force, but the head of their traditional military said that no Iranian military site would be subject to inspections. Well then, that guts what I think would be an appropriate, verifiable inspection regime. What I think most members of Congress are looking for are anytime, anywhere inspections, snap inspections including Iranian military facilities. And the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Association is charged with the task of finding out what the Iranians have tried to do in the past to militarize their nuclear program. And the Iranians will not allow the IAEA access to their sites, to their military sites. So given that dilemma, given that problem, I can’t see the Congress approving any deal that doesn’t allow anytime, anywhere inspections, including Iranian military facilities.
HH: But now I talked to Senator Sasse about this last week and to Senator Cotton on Monday, and I’ll ask your assurance as well. Does passing Corker-Menendez only to find that there aren’t two-thirds to override a presidential veto strengthen the executive agreement that the President enters into with Iran?
LG: No, all I can tell you is that knowing that it has to come to Congress so that you and your audience will understand every detail through Congressional debate is essential. And that’s not present now without Corker-Menendez. One person approves a deal with Iran and that’s Barack Obama. With Corker-Menendez, you have to have the entire Congress look at the deal before you can lift Congressional sanctions. I don’t think it’s technically a treaty. You’re a smart lawyer. I’ve talked to Jon Kyl, I’ve talked to other people. I don’t think it meets the legal definition of a treaty. So a debate on the deal, the understanding that comes from Congressional debate, review, oversight and eventually voting is a very good check and balance.
HH: Now your colleague, Tom Cotton, has said America has to keep a military option on the table.
LG: He’s right.
HH: He suggested that a bombing campaign over many days like Desert Fox that Bill Clinton ran would be adequate to setting back the Iranian program. Do you agree with that assessment, Senator Graham, that if necessary, that sort of an action as opposed to an invasion of hundreds of thousands of people like Desert Storm would be adequate to setting back the Iranian program?
LG: I’ll be honest with you. If you don’t have the military option on the table in the minds of the Iranians, you will never get a good deal. If they don’t believe we would stop a nuclear breakout on their part, they’re never going to come to the table and get the best deal to be had. But I’m assuming the worst. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last 14 years, you don’t need a ground invasion of Iran to stop their nuclear program. But an attack against Iranian nuclear facilities would not be short in nature. It would be, it would have to be a sustained campaign. And I’m of the opinion that if we had to go down the road to use military force to stop an Iranian breakout, I will not limit the attack just to nuclear facilities. I would go after their offensive capability. I would sink their navy, I would shoot down their air force, because once you attack Iran, you open up Pandora’s box. They could close the Straits of Hormuz, they could hit our bases in the region. They could do a lot of damage. But let me tell you how this war ends. They lose, we win. So I respect Tom Cotton a lot, but to attack Iran is a very consequential thing, consequences. But to let them get a nuclear weapon and emptying Pandora’s boxes, those are your choices. So in my view, an attack against Iran to stop a nuclear breakout has to neuter also the offensive capability of the regime for us truly to be safe.
HH: And 20 seconds, Senator Graham, is that military action as fully blown as you understand it preferable to a nuclear Iran?
LG: The choices are stopping them before they get a nuclear weapon or dealing with them after is not even close. Whatever damage to be done, no matter what hell is unleashed, stopping them from getting a nuclear weapon is a price I would pay in a moment, because when they get a nuclear weapon, if they ever do, you’re into a nuclear arms race in the Mid-East, and God help us all, so yes. A war with Iran to prevent a nuclear weapon is an absolute, essential thing to do, to stop them from getting a nuclear weapon. That has to be on the table.
HH: Senator Lindsey Graham, always bracing. Thank you, Senator.
End of interview.