Senator Lindsey Graham joined me on the show today:
HH: Joined now by United States Senator Lindsey Graham. Senator Graham, welcome back. Always a pleasure to talk with you.
LG: Thank you, Hugh.
HH: What day is the Senate going to vote on the Iran deal? There seems to be some confusion about this and it might the day after I see you at the Reagan Library and ask you questions in the debate.
LG: I hope not. I think we’re taking up the bill on the 8th of September. I don’t know how the debate will last, but I think it starts on the 8th of September.
HH: So you expect it to be concluded by the second debate.
LG: I. . . would think so. I mean, I don’t know exactly (coughs) if no amendments are going to be offered. So it’s basically all one hundred of us get to have our say. I don’t know. I would imagine it would be done it be done by the end of – as long it takes. Whatever it takes to fight this this bill is what I’ll do.
HH: If you have sixty votes to send it to the president, he will veto it. How long–
LG: Right. . .
HH: . . .after that to do you have to take it up.
LG: That is a good question. I’ve asked this very question. I don’t think there’s any statutory requirement that I’m familiar with or constitutional requirement – I don’t what the time is between veto and trying to override the veto. That’s a good a question. I’ll try to get back with you and find a better answer, but I’ve asked that very question myself.
HH: Are you making progress on finding the sixty?
LG: Yes. I think we’re going to get sixty. Whether we get sixty-seven is going to depend on how this thing shakes up in the next thirty days. August will be a decisive month as people go back home to their districts and to their states – hear from their constituents. So what we say and do in the next thirty days is probably going to determine to a great extent the votes we get.
HH: Now during the course of the second debate – not the first debate – which disappointed me. It came up that Soleimani had flown to Moscow that very day and I just asked Jeb Bush before you came on if this demonstrates a new axis of evil in the world between the mullahs and Putin. What does Lindsey Graham say?
LG: Oh, I don’t know that. I don’t know how many things you can have on an axis, but the relationship between Russia and Iran are two American antagonists and this deal will get them more cash to buy weapons from Russia that will make it harder in the future if we have to use military force to stop an Iranian breakout. We’ll probably face a more sophisticated Russian air defense equipment and every way possible, this is a bad deal, but Iran and, you know, China – they all kind of drink from the same trough.
HH: Did you agree that the debate didn’t – I made the point that the debate did not spend enough time on the Iran deal. Are you disappointed that it spend more time on the Iran deal?
LG: I’m incredibly disappointed that we didn’t talk about the Iran deal – what would you do differently? How would expect a different outcome? ISIL – what would you do to destroy it? Why not boots on the ground? Why boots on the ground? What do you do about Syria? What do you have to work with in Syria? Do you believe there’s a Free Syrian Army? Left the train. I frankly don’t. I thought the debate missed probably on the foreign policy front every major topic. Is Russia friend, adversary, somewhere in-between? What is the relationship with Iran and Russia? Should we be worried about it (sighs)?
HH: The people over at CSIS who have suggested that in the aftermath of the Iran deal if it passes, the United States ought to forward-base B-2’s in Israel and ought to offer stealth technology – you have F-22’s and B-2 technology – to the Israelis if they want either of those things. What does what Lindsey Graham think?
LG: I don’t think we need to – I obviously help Israel in any way I can – but I’m not going to put the burden on Israel to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat if I’m President of the United States. My goal was not build up the Israeli military so they can deal with this problem and I would have to ignore it. My goal would be to deal with it directly, not put our friends in Israel in a box. We’re gonna outsource our national security to Israel. When it comes to defending Israel, I’ll make sure they have the technology they need to defend the one and only Jewish state. With this idea of arming the Israelis to let them do the hard work – I’m not there. That’s not where I want to go.
HH: So if they asked you for F-22, B-2 technology you’d say no?
LG: No, I’d be glad to supply F-22’s to the Israel Air Force.
HH: But – you don’t want them to have to do the work that we’re unwilling to do.
LG: You got it.
HH: Alright, got it.
LG: We’re not, that’s all I’m saying…
HH: Now Senator Graham, I want to turn to a couple of other things I covered with Jeb Bush. First, he laid the blame for the collapse of the Iraqi government authority and the rise of ISIS squarely on President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton for the failure to reach a status of forces agreement. I pointed out his brother entered into the S.O.F.A. that expired on December 31st, 2011 and Maliki deserves some of the blame and he said no, this was our fault. Do you agree?
LG: I think it was our fault. The president got the answer he wanted when it comes to troop levels. He wanted zero. He got zero. He promised to end the War in Iraq. He actually lost the War in Iraq. But this is something that most people don’t know. I want to make sure you understand. Secretary Clinton called me to go over to Iraq to talk to all the parties to see if we can find a way to achieve a residual force to be left behind. I went with Senator McCain and Senator Lieberman. We met with Mr. Allawi who’s is the Aratia (5:29?) party leader, the former prime minister. He is a [Shi’i], but it was a Sunni coalition. We flew up to meet with President Barzani – not president – but Barzani, the head of the Kurds. Not Talabani, Barzani. Then we met with Maliki. So we had Ambassador Jeffrey – U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and Gen. Austin, the commander of Iraq forces at the time inn the meeting with me, Maliki, and McCain. I asked Prime Minister Maliki, “Would you accept troops.” He says, “If other will, I will.” Then he turned to me and say, “How many troops are you talking about?” I turned to Gen. Austin and then Ambassador Jeffrey – “What’s the answer to the prime minister’s question?” Gen. Dreyfuss says, “We’re still working on the number.” The number went from 18,000 recommended by Austin down to 3,000 coming out of the White House. General Dempsey answered Senator McCain’s question and my question as to how the numbers went down – “What is because the Iraqis suggest too many?” He said, “No, the cascading numbers came from the White House. I was there. They were all ready to accept a residual force. But when you get below 3,000, it was a joke. And we got the answer we wanted. I was on the ground. I asked the question. I heard the answer from Gen. Austin – the White House hasn’t made up their mind, yet.
HH: Jeb Bush is right. This is truly at the feet of Obama-Clinton.
LG: You know, Maliki has got a lot of blame for Iraq falling apart, but I lay this at the foot of the President of the United States solely. The Iraqis to a person would’ve accepted a residual force, but he wanted to get to zero. He would never come forth with a number. They never had a number.
HH: Now solely. . . you’re not talking about Hilary Clinton as well?
LG: Oh, totally. I’m sorry – the Obama administration.
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HH: Alright. Now I’m wrapping up the hour with Senator Lindsey Graham. Senator Graham, Hilary Clinton has turned over the server. The FBI may have demanded it.
HH: Do you think she broke the law?
LG: I don’t know. If she has classified information in a private server that was not set up to do so, then that’s a violation of how you store classified information. I don’t know the fact pattern. But I do know this. I find it almost impossible to believe there are no emails coming from her or to her about Benghazi on the eleventh of September and for four or five days after. How could there be no email chats about Benghazi. I just find that stunning.
HH: Now eighteen–
LG: . . . and hard to believe.
HH: 18 USC 1924’s the section under which General David Petraeus, John Deutsch, and Sandy Berger were convicted. It’s hard for me to believe she hasn’t done the same thing, given that they wiped the server. And they did so, by the way, at an IT firm that lacked the DoD clearance. That was revealed today. Doesn’t this just scream criminality?
LG: Yeah I think that the problem is that she said that there was no classified information passed through the server our housed on the server. We now know that’s not true. So we have clear evidence of classified information being given to this system outside the norms of the government and to me that’s something that needs to be investigated because there’s rules about how you store classified information. This information was stored on a personal email server. It was inappropriate for classified information to be stored on. It’s that simple. Somebody needs to look and see how that happened.
HH: Do you have confidence in the Federal Bureau of Investigation [and the] Department of Justice to prosecute if necessary Hilary Clinton.
LG: I have confidence in professional FBI agents but I have zero confidence that the Department of Justice is going to be the independent arbiter we’re looking for – somebody – special prosecutor – to look at this.
HH: Would you welcome your former colleague Joe Biden’s entry into the race?
LG: Yeah! Wholeheartedly. I would hug him if I could. I think he would be a great addition to the mix on their side. I think he’s got a lot to offer to the Democratic Party and I think he’s more likely to run than not.
HH: And if Donald Trump is the GOP nominee, would you endorse him?
LG: I would hold my nose and vote for him, but I think we’d get creamed.
HH: But you would endorse him.
LG: Sure! I’m a Republican. I–
HH: Last question. I ask–
LG: I am a Republican.
HH: I ask questions at the next debate. What’s your advice to me?
LG: Uh. . . What would you do in Syria? How would you destroy ISIL in Syria and be specific. What’s the consequences if we don’t?
HH: You know they used mustard gas this week. Do you think they got WMD in great quantity?
LG: I don’t know, that’s a lethal – it’s not a Weapon of Mass Destruction, but it’s a weapon of terror. And gee I like Barack, but his plan to destroy ISIL – there’s no grand component that he’s put forth. He will not destroy ISIL unless you increase the number of American boots on the ground in Iraq, come up with regional force to go into Syria which we will have to be a part. Nobody on our side does anything but criticize Obama. I have very specific proposal that will destroy ISIL. It will 20,000 American boots on the ground allocated between Iraq and Syria to get the job done. We need more, that’s what I would do.
HH: Senator Lindsey Graham, always good to talk to you. See you at the Reagan Library. See you in a few weeks and talk to you before that on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
End of Interview