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Senator Lindsey Graham On The Elections And His (Possible) Tenure As Chair Of Judiciary

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Senator Lindsey Graham joined me Monday morning:




HH: On Election Eve, I’m so pleased to welcome United States Senator Lindsey Graham who I believe is going to get a band together and start touring. Maybe he’s going to get John Ondrasik of Five For Fighting. You could sell out a few halls right now, Lindsey Graham.

LG: Yeah, you know, whatever. If I sang, I would empty those halls. But I can tell you about Kavanaugh, the caravan, and a growing economy.

HH: Well, let me talk first. I want to cover two things. There are about a half dozen Never Trumpers left in the country, maybe ten, and I run into a lot of them in the halls at MSNBC. Some of them have taken to saying that John McCain would not be happy with Lindsey Graham. And I get mad, because I know that no two people were closer in the Senate than you and Senator McCain. The funniest moment in my history of my radio show was when you two gave me a hard time after Trump gave me a Trump tattoo one morning. But what do you make when people tell you what John McCain would think of Lindsey Graham today, your best friend in the Senate?

LG: Well, number one, if you’re on MSNBC as a Republican, you’ve lost your way.

HH: Well, I’m there.

LG: Most of these people…yeah, but you’re actually being a Republican on MSNBC.

HH: That’s true.

LG: And you’re trying to tell our side of the story, and I appreciate MSNBC having your voice. You know, John McCain, when it came to judges, was a hard ass. He voted against Sotomayor and Kagan, and I voted for them. So John would have been over the top mad about the way they treated Kavanaugh. If he’d been the committee chairman and you hid stuff from the committee, if the lawyers never told Dr. Ford hey, by the way, you, we would have gone to California, he would have blown his top. So that’s all chatter. Well, John McCain will, he’ll affect my life forever. He was a great mentor, but you know, I am me, and I am going to fight for what I believe.

HH: Now the second thing I want to do is just pause and thank you on behalf of me and everyone in this audience. I’ve often tangled with you. I’ve often supported you. But you were channeling Hugh Hewitt, or Hugh Hewitt was channeling Lindsey Graham when you took off during the Kavanaugh hearing. Thank you for doing that. I don’t know how much steam had built up and how red your ears were getting, but thank you for doing that.

LG: Well, you know, I think the point of Kavanaugh was I struck a nerve. People like you and other conservatives all over the country feel for a long time that it’s always our guys, you know, Alito, Thomas, Bork, now Kavanaugh, why is it always our guys? I voted for Sotomayor and Kagan, because I thought they were qualified. And I saw their complete destruction of a good man I’ve known for 20 years. And when they asked them if you’re truly innocent, why won’t you ask to continue this investigation, what do you have to hide, that was like being in the Soviet Union. And you know, clearly, I had all I could take. And if I spoke for you, I’m proud, and I’m happy.

HH: Well, you did, and you spoke for millions. And I think the election is going to turn, I said this on Meet the Press yesterday, I know the first election of a presidency is often tough. But the Kavanaugh hearings was a signal event.

LG: Yeah.

HH: And it’s the kind of event that makes, I think, Martha McSally elected. I think it gets Josh Hawley elected. I think it gets Mike Braun elected, Rick Scott, maybe Bob Hugin maybe against Menendez.

LG: Yeah, who knows?

HH: What do you think about Hugin?

LG: Well, you know, I think he’s running a hell of a race, exceeding every expectation. And it helps us with New Jersey House races. But back to the point about Kavanaugh, the caravan and the growing economy. If you’re a Trump state Democrat, and there are a lot of them, this has been a terrible 30 days for you. So Kavanaugh did two things. It showcased for the country how, what they will do to get power and how much they want power, and there are no boundaries. And it got every Republican from a Bush Republican to a Trump Republican, libertarian-vegetarian Republican, all united, because we all agree on conservative judges, right? And Kavanaugh was the Bush guy. So the Democrats energized the Republican Party in a way we’ve never been able to do. And I think it’s had a big effect in rallying our base. And if you’re a red state Democrat and you voted against Kavanaugh, Gorsuch and the tax cuts, you’re probably in trouble.

HH: You know, I think John Tester is done. I saw that rally in Montana. I know you’ve been out for Matt Rosendale.

LG: Going out today. I’m going out this morning to…

HH: There just aren’t that many people in Montana. They had to come in from Idaho to get that many people for the president. It was amazing.

LG: I’d say Canada.

HH: They could have come from Canada.

LG: A bunch of mad Canadians coming over.

HH: Let me ask you about that jobs report. Again, my friends at MSNBC, it’s sort of like the jobs report that didn’t happen. If Barack Obama had had that jobs report before 2010, it would have run on an endless loop for two days before the election. That’s the best jobs report I’ve seen since the Great Recession.

LG: Well, one of the things we’ll learn from Kavanaugh is how in the tank the media really is for the other side. I don’t think they’re the enemy of the people. They’re just allies of the Democratic Party. If a Republican had done to a Democratic nominee what they did to Kavanaugh, it would be front page news everywhere. If Barack Obama’s jobs numbers were anywhere close to what we’re talking about, they would stop the Earth from rotating to make sure everybody heard about it. So the bottom line is it doesn’t work anymore. MSNBC and NBC have become one when it comes to the news cycle. Saturday Night Live is making fun of a guy who lost his eye in Afghanistan. There is a backlash growing in this country from the over the top effort by the left to portray everything conservative as bad and mean and un-American. And we’re going to show up at the polls in record numbers, and we’re going to kick their butt in the Senate, and I think the House is going to surprise people.

HH: You know, I just had Governor Scott on. And I think the biggest gaffe of this cycle is when your colleague, Bill Nelson, compared American politics to the Rwandan genocide. I have not heard about that. And can you imagine if a Republican had…

LG: So it’s not, I don’t know if our national thoughts are genocide, but…

HH: No, but…

LG: Yeah, just say we had said anything like that. We’d have been slaughtered and should have been.

HH: But Bill Nelson, you’ve never campaigned against a sitting Democrat before. And you are out there doing that.

LG: Yeah.

HH: So something must have broke in Lindsey Graham. And I hope it carries over. If you become the Judiciary Committee Chairman, and I think you might. I talked to Chuck Grassley about that. He hadn’t made up his mind. Will you bring order to this, because everybody knew how they were going to vote on Kavanaugh.

LG: Yes. Yeah.

HH: We took too long to do that.

LG: Absolutely.

HH: We don’t need blue slips. What’s Lindsey Graham as chairman going to do?

LG: Well, we’re going to, there’s, there was a confirmation process before Kavanaugh, and there’s the confirmation process after Kavanaugh. We’ve had two really highly-qualified conservatives selected by President Trump. Gorsuch and Kavanaugh are some of the great minds of their time. Any Republican would have picked these two. Not one Democrat on the Judiciary Committee has voted for them. Supreme Court nominees need to be tested, but they don’t need to be destroyed. So I’m going to remember this. If I am chairman and there’s another opening on the Supreme Court, we’re going to have a hearing consistent with what they’re out to do. They’ll have a chance to ask question of the nominee, but they’re not going to have a chance just to destroy the nominee. I will work with Democrats to fix a broken immigration system, a prison reform measure that I think we could maybe get through the committee in a bipartisan fashion. But when it comes to judges, enough is enough.

HH: Now the Leader and Chairman Grassley have worked to bring sanity to this blue slip process when it comes to Circuit judges.

LG: Right.

HH: And we’ve got to do that, or the 9th Circuit is forever lost.

LG: Right.

HH: Are you committed as well that blue slips do not matter for Circuit…

LG: 100%. So Chuck Grassley has done a great job as chairman. If he does move over, to your listeners, what we’re talking about, let’s say two Democratic senators in California, there’s an opening on the 9th Circuit in California, there’s been a practice in the past where senators can basically veto a selection by the White House. It’s been uneven in its application. But from my point of view, after Kavanaugh, we’ll get their input, but they’re not going to have a veto on the Circuit Court.

HH: And will the pace continue as it has been, because 29 is great. I want 40 by the end of the year. And I want 100 by the end of four years.

LG: Well, to the extent if I’m chairman, we will work diligently to fill vacancies and try to make sure that the next year and a half, by the summer of 2020, it sort of comes to a halt, that we’re productive when it comes to federal judges on the bench. That’s one of the reasons people go to the polls in presidential elections. The court’s at stake. We all talk about how important the election is for the court. So here’s the thing for the Democrats. They don’t want to acknowledge that President Trump won. They tried to undercut his ability to pick highly-qualified nominees to the Supreme Court. And we’re going to be full throttle when it comes to judges.

HH: Last question. I’m running Midterm Madness. It’s a fun contest for my listeners. They’re picking winners. I think McSally wins, Hawley wins, Mike Braun wins, Rick Scott wins, Bob Hugin, maybe. John James is my upset special. What about your friend, Dean Heller? How are you calling that, Lindsey Graham?

LG: The best campaign I’ve seen is Rick Scott and Dean Heller. I think Dean wins. He’s the only person in a state that Trump lost held by a Republican. Marvelous campaign, stood with Trump, but also has been clear that he’s going to stand with Nevada. Dean will win. I’ve been out there, and have a lot of confidence in his campaign.

HH: Now a last question, there’s a Post story today about change was coming in Team Trump. Would Lindsey Graham accept a Cabinet spot? Or do you want to run Judiciary?

LG: I’m staying right where I’m at. And people ask me about being Attorney General and other jobs. I will be in the NBA before I leave the Senate. And I don’t like my chances.

HH: Okay.

LG: In the NBA.

HH: As for, I think Attorney General Sessions is going to step down. I want Mike Luttig, the general counsel of Boeing, the former 4th Circuit, do you think he’d get through the Senate?

LG: Yeah, I’ve known Mike for, you know, I wanted him to be on the Supreme Court. There are so many good choices. Jeff probably will step down. We’ll have a new attorney general, most likely early next year. And we’re just going to run hard in ’19 and ’20 to you know, keep this thing going. And at the end of the day, I think President Trump has delivered. I like his chances of getting reelected. I still want to work with my Democratic colleagues to solve problems, but I’ve never been more pissed than I am right now about the way Kavanaugh was treated. And I’m going to remind everybody between now and Tuesday what’s at stake here.

HH: Well, Lindsey Graham and his new band, I’ve Never Been More Pissed, hitting the road soon. Senator Graham, good to talk to you. It’s great to have you out on the campaign trail. Come back after Wednesday, and we’ll celebrate an expanded Republican majority in the Senate. Thank you, Senator.

End of interview.


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