South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham joined me this morning:
HH: I am joined by United States Senator Lindsey Graham from the great state of South Carolina. Happy Memorial Day to you, Senator Graham.
LG: Thank you, Hugh, very much. Appreciate that.
HH: I am reading Facts and Fears, James Clapper’s new book. Have you had a chance to read it, yet, or see it?
HH: All right. On Page 390, he recounts Sally Yates’ appearance before you and other senators. [About] her testimony about General Flynn…he writes, “At one point, she recounted this story. Senator Graham stopped her, asking, ‘okay, and I don’t mean to interrupt you, but this is important to me. How did the conversation between the Russian ambassador and Mr. Flynn make it to the Washington Post?’ I answered,” Clapper says “for us, ‘That’s a great question. All of us would like to know that.’” Senator Graham, do you know the answer to that question, yet?
HH: And why not?
LG: Well, we’re going to keep digging. I mean, clearly there’s a lot of, the past administration has got a lot to answer for. And we’ll keep digging. I think Clapper needs to come back to the committee. I think Comey needs to come back. I think Loretta Lynch needs to come back. And we just, and McCabe needs to come back. Bruce Ohr needs to come before the Judiciary Committee to see if we can find out what the Department of Justice and the FBI did regarding the 2016 Election.
HH: Do you think the President is correct to use the hashtag and to call this Spygate?
LG: Oh, I didn’t go to the event yesterday. A confidential informant is not a spy. I don’t know if there’s a reason to have a confidential informant following a campaign. But let’s put it this way. There needs to be some protocols in place if this ever happens again. Right now, there are rules saying you can’t, you know, you don’t want investigations to change political cycles. So there’s rules about, you know, ending and starting investigations because of the political cycle. There’s also rules about going into a lawyer’s office. That’s a big deal. There should be some rules about surveilling a major party nominee’s campaign. And there probably is not any.
HH: So you evaded there artfully, as I would expect from Lindsey Graham. The question, should the President use the term Spygate?
LG: I don’t know. Probably not, but I don’t know. I didn’t go to the meeting. I don’t think it’s, I don’t think he’s a spy. And I don’t know who this person was.
HH: You haven’t met Stefan Halper? You’ve never met him?
LG: No, but here’s the question. What did they get? I mean, Carter Page is not being charged as far as I know. I know he was surveilled by a FISA warrant. The FISA warrant was based on the dossier. 90% of it came from the dossier. So the real question is what did this British guy get from the Trump people that became actionable? It doesn’t seem like much.
HH: Isn’t the most interesting question about Mr. Halper is who ran him, who was running him?
LG: Yeah. I mean, okay, you know, what led to the idea you needed a confidential informant? Who did he report to? I know who Mr. Steele reported to. He reported to Bruce Ohr, which was odd. The number four guy at DOJ is running a confidential informant, and his wife works for the same organization, Fusion GPS. That’s a bit odd.
HH: It has been suggested that Mr. Brennan initiated Mr. Halper’s contact. Do you believe that?
LG: Don’t know. It would be a good question to ask and find the answer to. How did it start? What led us to believe he needed a confidential informant regarding the Trump campaign?
HH: Have you invited Mr. Halper to the committee?
LG: I think that will be forthcoming. I don’t know if he’s the confidential informant or not. I don’t want to disclose confidential informants that would jeopardize national security. But you’ve got to realize this is a political legal endeavor here. We’re talking about a major nominee of, you know, a nominee of a major party. So I think we want to know more about how the law, intel and politics coalesce. Did President Trump, excuse me, Obama know about it? Did Susan Rice know about it? Did Valerie Jarrett know about it? Did the political people in the White House know about this? I’d be shocked if they didn’t.
HH: You know, a lot of younger people don’t know the term COINTELPRO. I used it on Meet the Press last weekend, and Chuck knew what it was. But a lot of people don’t remember the bad old days when Hoover’s FBI ran roughshod over people’s rights, not just with Martin Luther King and the Black Panthers, but basically everybody.
HH: And the FBI, everybody, FBI has to be careful about not falling into that reputation again.
LG: Well, there was a time in the 50s and 60s where Dr. King and other people that, and you know, members of Congress, you know, everybody was scared to death of Hoover. He had files on everybody. He was the one guy you didn’t want to cross, and that’s not the role of the FBI. That was a dark time in our history. And the question is, Peter Strzok and the lady he was working with…
HH: Lisa Page. Lisa Page.
LG: Yeah, you can have your own opinions, but you can’t put the thumb on the scale when it comes to investigating people. So can you imagine if this had been an investigation of Trump, and the leading investigator, like Trump, hated Clinton, wanted to help Trump? This is just, I can’t believe Democrats are not upset about the DOJ and the FBI’s handling of the dossier as well as the Clinton email investigation.
HH: Kimberly Strassel, the great columnist for the Wall Street Journal, begins her column today, “Democrats and their media allies are again shouting Constitutional crisis, this time claiming President Trump has waded too far into the Russia investigation. The howls are a diversion from the actual crisis, that Justice Department’s unprecedented contempt for the duly elected representatives, and the lasting harm it is doing to law enforcement and the department’s relationship with Congress.” Agree or disagree, Lindsey Graham?
LG: Well, I completely disagree that this is a, DOJ’s using a dossier prepared by a foreign agent paid by a political party where the man in question, Mr. Steele, had a political bias against President Trump. The dossier is a bunch of garbage coming from the Russian intelligence services to get a warrant. When the head FBI agent was talking about an insurance policy to protect the country from Trump’s election, that’s not a diversion, but I do want to mention North Korea for a second.
HH: But it sounds like you agree with Kim Strassel. That’s a real problem, not a…
LG: That’s a huge problem. There’s two buckets. There’s the Mueller bucket, and there’s the Clinton email investigation and the dossier bucket. I want to get, you know, we’ll let Mueller do his job, but I’m all over the other thing. And we need to be all over the other thing.
HH: Now I want to switch to North Korea if I can.
HH: And preface this, this isn’t a book club, but I’m going to ask you about another book. Have you read Conrad Black’s new book Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other?
HH: He has got in here detailed reconstructions of the negotiations the President…if you and I had read this before the debates, we would have approached them differently. One of them, on Page 33, reads, “The negotiations in the autumn of 1990 took place in the Plaza Hotel were fierce and ill-tempered. Unlike the discussions with the banks where reasonable decorum is normally reserved, but Donald Trump flourishes in this environment. And with nerves of steel, he allowed the negotiations to break down twice, and he actually went into default.” And that’s a story that happens again and again. He walks away, and then he walks back in. Do you think that’s what’s going on with North Korea?
LG: Well there’s some of this. I talked to him yesterday, and the President feels like they’re playing him, so he brought it to an end, and we’ll see if we can reengage. But everybody is missing the big picture here. Donald Trump within 30 days of becoming president of the United States met with me, McMaster and a few other people, and we talked about North Korea. This is the first time I met him as president, and he said what do you think? And I said I think North Korea is your most acute problem. Iran’s your long term problem. And I said you’ve got two choices – containment, which is give them a nuke and a missile and tell them if they ever use it, we’ll blow you off the map. I don’t like that, because they sell everything they build.
LG: So that’s a dangerous strategy. So to me, it’s denial, denying them the capability of having a weapon to hit America with a missile with a nuclear weapon on top. We’re not going to give them that capability. Tell them to get out of the nuclear business and be willing to go to war. And he turned to McMaster, and he says what do you think? And he says I think we need to get them to give up their nukes for the good of our security and the world at large. He’s made a decision, the President has, that he’s going to end North Korea’s nuclear program. It’s only a question of how and when. There’s two ways on the how side – through diplomatic negotiations with China helping us to give up their program. We sign a peace treaty and end the cold war. They get a better economy, we’re not invading North Korea, we’re giving them the security they need, and they give up their nukes and they’re in the same boat as Japan and South Korea. The other way is if they insist on continuing to have a nuclear capability to threaten America, that we use military action which would be the total destruction of the regime. The question is when. I think, I personally believe having talked to the President as of yesterday, that he’s going to bring this to conclusion in his first term.
HH: How long did you talk with him for yesterday, Senator Graham?
LG: A good bit. I’m going to meet him later in the weekend. We talk a lot about North Korea and Iran. How do you enter into a bad deal with North Korea after pulling out of the Iran deal because it was bad? The President’s got a clear goal here. I don’t know how he bought and sold property, and I don’t know how he bought and sold golf courses, but he was pretty good at it. As president of the United States, he’s made a decision to end the North Korean nuclear program. He wants to do it peacefully, if possible, and he’s going to do it in his first term, I believe.
HH: Senator Graham, yesterday I had Colonel Chip Berke on yesterday. He’s the only man who’s flown the F-16, the F-18 Super Hornet, the F-22, and the F-35.
HH: He’s a big fan of the latter two, but he doesn’t think we have enough, that the F-18 can survive North Korean air defenses. And we haven’t got enough of the stealth aircraft to take out…
HH: This would be a lot of dead people, right? We’re talking about a million casualties if this comes to blows.
LG: Well, you know, so let’s understand what we’re saying here. We’re saying that as a last resort, we’ll use military force to destroy the regime’s nuclear program, which basically means destroying the regime. Now yes, that will be, that will be difficult. It will be devastating to the region. But 20 years from now, if they keep building nuclear weapons and missiles, they’re going to sell it to somebody who will use it. Iran is different. They have a religious mission. They’re religious zealots. They’re religious Nazis. If they get a nuclear weapon, they’ll use it for religious purposes, to purify the Sunni faith, destroy Israel and come after us. So where does a terrorist get a weapon, a nuclear weapon, that they would actually use? From a regime like North Korea or Iran. So the President has calculated for the good of the world, for the good of the United States, I’m going to take off the table North Korea having nuclear capability to threaten the homeland and the world at large. And if it takes a war to end that nuclear threat, so be it. And the war will be over there. The people dying will be over there, and he doesn’t want to do that. But he’s going to pick regional conflict to secure the homeland. I hope people understand that.
HH: When you see him this weekend, Senator Graham…
HH: Will you tell him what you think the casualty estimate from that, because I think it’s a million people. Do you agree with me?
LG: Yeah, it may be. I don’t know what the casualty figure would be. It depends on how quickly it goes, how hard the North Koreans fight. Do all the generals rally around this nut job, and do they all die for him? All I can say is the likelihood of a nuclear weapon falling into the hands of a terrorist to be used against us comes from a sale by North Korea. The likelihood of a Mideast getting into a nuclear arms race where one day somebody will use nuclear arms is allowing the Iranians to possess a nuclear weapon. This deal with Iran ensured them a pathway to a nuclear weapon. So Donald Trump is going to end the nuclear threat coming from Iran. He’s going to end the nuclear threat coming from North Korea. Everybody before him punted. Everybody before him talked and did nothing. They play us like a fiddle. They understand our election cycle.
HH: Last question for you, Senator. We’re running out of time.
HH: When I would see you on the debate stages in 2015 and 2016, did you ever imagine that you would be assessing President Trump this way in 2018 on Memorial Day weekend?
LG: 1) I thought he would lose. I thought he had, I thought he couldn’t win, and I had no idea what his foreign policy would be. I am pleasantly surprised. I am very pleased. Building up the military, getting out of the Iran deal, putting North Korea on notice that we’re going to end the threat coming from North Korea, building up the military, all good, taking the gloves off…
HH: Well, if you’ve changed, why can’t the Never Trump people change? What is it with these people?
LG: Well, here’s the difference between me and them. I was in the contest, got beat like a drum. He won. Wanted to help Obama, want to help him, and I see in him a resolve not to be Barack Obama. He’s not going to crawl through glass to get a bad deal. He’s not going to be played by North Korea. He’s going to break Iran’s back until they enter into a deal that ensures they won’t get a nuclear weapon down the road. He has to do this. He constantly says, you know, why did everybody let it get so bad, Lindsey? Why didn’t they do things quicker and better before? And I said Mr. President, most people who get this job try to get out of this job without major conflict. Unfortunately, you don’t have that luxury.
HH: Well said.
LG: It’s up to you, Mr. President, to correct a lot of bad problems. And I’m going to help him as much as I can.
HH: Well, enjoy playing golf with him. Don’t give him any strokes, Lindsey Graham.
LG: Don’t worry. It’s the other way around.
HH: How many strokes do you get?
LG: As many as I can get.
HH: No, I mean, he’s got to give you a stroke a hole, right?
LG: You know, he’s, you know, he’s not into the giving mode on the golf course.
HH: (laughing) Lindsey Graham…
LG: All right.
HH: Have a wonderful Memorial Day.
LG: Thank you.
HH: You’re a veteran. I appreciate your service. Thank you, Senator.
LG: Thank you very much. All right. Bye bye.
End of interview.