HH: I am so pleased to begin this hour with Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Senator Graham, good morning, as always, thank you for joining me.
LG: Thank you. Game of Thrones theme music is a good way to start today.
HH: Well, I want to begin with, this is a very troubling story. Yesterday, Luis Gutierrez of Chicago said, and I quote, “General Kelly is a hypocrite who is a disgrace to the uniform he used to wear. He has no honor, and he should be drummed out of the White House along with the white supremacists and those enabling the President’s actions by ‘just following orders’”, which of course is a reference to the Nazi defense at Nuremburg.
HH: General Kelly served 46 years. He’s a Gold Star father. His son, Lt. Robert Kelly, was killed in action in the war. What is wrong with people?
LG: Well, you’re giving his criticism more weight than it deserves. You know, I know him, and he’s very emotional about immigration reform. What he said about General Kelly is just completely wrong, and quite frankly, deplorable. Here’s where we are. We’re a nation of laws. It was clear to me that DACA would not meet a Constitutional test in court. DAPA, the executive action for the parents of the Dream Act kids fell in court. The ten attorneys general, Republican attorneys general, were going to sue that DACA was unconstitutional. They were going to win. And the President made a good decision by saying I’m going to end the program, but I’m going to give Congress six months to fix the problem. So what I would say to Mr. Gutierrez, sit down with a Republican in the House and try to find a solution instead of slandering General Kelly.
HH: It is a slander. I just don’t understand what has happened to the city. It is possible, everybody knows it’s an unconstitutional executive order.
LG: Yes, it is.
HH: And everybody knows we have to take care of 800,000 Dreamers.
HH: But you can’t get there by slandering an American hero who has made the ultimate sacrifice of his own son.
LG: Well, let’s just put it this way. The slander against General Kelly says more about Mr. Gutierrez than it does General Kelly. And what Luis Gutierrez says or does is not going to be outcome-determinative. General Kelly will be a leader here. Name one person in the country more qualified to talk about border security than John Kelly. He was head of Southern Command. He understands this issue backwards and forwards. So there’s a deal to be made. Donald Trump is a deal maker. This is his time to shine. We all know that 800,000 kids are sympathetic in the eyes of most Americans. They have no other country to go to. America is their home, for all practical purposes. They can stay here. They can become citizens on our terms. We have a very rigorous process to keep them here and let them become citizens. If you deported them, you’d hurt the economy. But if you gave them legal status and didn’t address border security, you’re incentivizing more illegal immigration. So you have to do two things at once. You have to deal with the plight of the Dream Act kids, but you also have to start making a down payment on fixing the broken immigration system. So Mr. Gutierrez, would you agree to a robust security, border security plan for the Dream Act? If you don’t, then you’re basically, you’re the one trapping these kids into a bad life, not me, because we need to do two things – take care of the Dream Act kids and secure our border.
HH: When you talk with your Democratic friends, Senator Graham, do they not realize that we end up with scores of people in trucks in Wal-Mart parking lots asphyxiated? I don’t know how many people were caught in Harvey trying to cross that desert. I know there were 18,000 arrests…
HH: …in July trying to cross the border. So probably 18,000 got past it. And when Harvey came, those folks had no idea what hit them, right?
HH: I don’t know how many people are dead in the desert because of that.
LG: Well, all I can say, there are plenty, and Dick Durbin and I have introduced the Dream Act months ago, and have always believed that you’ve got to do two things at once, which is hard for Congress to even imagine. But I think we can pull it off here. There’s no substitute for the President. He has a good heart for these kids, but he also followed the law. Clearly, DACA by President Obama was a Constitutional overreach. President Trump could not continue an unconstitutional policy. But he gave Congress six months to fix this problem. Now he’s going to need to get involved. He needs to come up with a border security plan that’s reasonable, that’s tough, that would achieve the goal of securing our border, and in return give these kids a place now, you know, legal status good for the country. That’s the deal to be made. He’s going to have to make that deal, and I stand ready to help him. I think the deal is there to be made.
HH: I agree, and I think people, the critics of Trump don’t understand. He did the Dreamers a favor by taking the federal courts out of the equation for six months.
LG: Yes, he did. Absolutely. Yes, he did.
HH: …by making the ripeness case.
HH: Now, they can’t bring that case.
LG: Well, let me just tell you, he did the country a favor by taking an unconstitutional process and replacing it with a process where the Congress working with the President can fix this. And you cannot to a Republican who says no matter how sympathetic you are to these kids, if you just give them legal status and do nothing else, you’re incentivizing people to continue to come to the country, because they’ll think hey, if I can get my kid there, the next thing you know, they’ll be American citizens. So you’re right. You’ve got to do more than just the Dream Act. You’ve got to make a down payment on fixing the broken immigration system. You’ve got to do two things at once. And I think there’s a deal to be had. I think there are plenty of Democrats who believe we should secure our border more forcefully than we’ve done in the past who would vote for border security and the Dream Act. And I think there are plenty of Republicans if they had a border security plan they thought would work, would be fair to these kids. I think that’s the deal.
HH: Now I want to switch subjects, because China is objecting to the deployment of more THAAD systems to South Korea. Senator Graham, is the American people, should they be prepared for preemptive military action against North Korea given the actions of an increasingly erratic dangerous regime?
LG: Yeah, and I think what we need to understand that the President is right on North Korea in terms of not allowing them to have a missile with a nuclear weapon on top that can hit the American homeland. I don’t know if they tested a hydrogen bomb or not, but it was a lot more powerful than past tests. I don’t believe their missile technology has developed to the point that they could actually deliver a nuclear weapon to the homeland, but they’re getting close. So the President has made a decision to deny North Korea the capability to attack America with a nuclear weapon and using preemptive force if necessary. The diplomatic road is not over, but there are two competitions going here. The diplomatic solution has to be viewed in terms of the acceleration of North Korea’s nuclear program, particularly their missile program. So when do you run out of diplomatic time? When it’s clear that North Korea is on the verge of a breakout in terms of a missile with a weapon on top that can hit America. I don’t know how far, how much time we have left, but we’re running out of time.
HH: When that preemptive action occurs, if it occurs…
HH: …do you expect it to be measured and specific to the nuclear sites? Or do you expect it to be massive and destructive of their air defense system as part of wave one, as Admiral Stavridis has discussed with me on this show before?
LG: Well, here’s what I would expect, that if you fired the first shot, you need to be ready for full-scale war. Here’s what I would do. If they keep threatening the American homeland with a missile attack with a nuclear weapon on top, they said it yesterday, I would look at any future missile test as a provocation, and a military provocation, and I’d shoot the damn thing down just to let them know how serious we are. But a preemptive strike, you’ve got to assume that if you go after their hardened nuclear facilities or, you know, their infrastructure around their missile technology that their response would be all-out war against South Korea and our forces inside of South Korea. So if our President, I would assume, that I would start, you know, with a limited military strike, but I would expect to have to be engaged in a full-blown war. You have to assume the worst, not the best.
HH: Should we be removing American military dependents from Korea as we speak?
LG: We’re getting close. Remember when I talked to you about this. This is the signal that we’re running out of diplomatic time in their missile program is maturing to the point where we’ve got to take military action. So there’s three ways to remove dependents. We talked about this last time. You can take the commercial available space and take them out, you know, based on commercial flight availability. That takes a long time. You could surge C-17s plus commercial availability, or you could requisition commercial air fleets plus the military air lift capability and get them all out in just a matter of days. So when you see American dependents beginning to leave South Korea, then that’s a signal from our military that the North Korean threat has matured against the homeland.
HH: And a last question, Senator, Charleston might be in the path of Irma. It’s a massive storm. What is the latest you have heard, the best information you have on where it’s going to make landfall?
LG: Going further east, which means it’s likely to, you know, hit Florida, but go up the East Coast. And you know, we’ve been hit by Hugo. We’ve had a lot of hurricanes. We had a thousand year flood two years ago, so Mother Nature packs a heck of a wallop. We’ll be prepared. You know, we, Governor McMaster will be ready, and you know, these are devastating storms, and we’re just, you know, we’ll have to get ready for them. I don’t know what to say other to just listen to your local officials.
HH: But you know, Senator Graham, you’ve been there with Mother Emmanuel massacre. You saw the Charlottesville thing.
HH: And you’ve seen these crazy people in Berkeley.
HH: But the millions of Americans who actually act with respect toward their fellow men overshadow it. Why doesn’t the media get that?
LG: Well, you know, cable news is one car wreck after another, and you know how I feel about cable news. You can’t define America, you know, or South Carolina by Dylan Roof. You define South Carolina by the overwhelming response of the African-American community in that church and citizens throughout South Carolina showing love and respect. So America is a good place with problems. You would never know that watching television.
HH: Well said. Senator Lindsey Graham, thank you for talking to me this morning. Good luck in the week ahead in South Carolina.
End of interview.