Transcript: Sen. Lindsey Graham on “Face the Nation,” Dec. 3, 2017
What follows is a transcript of the interview, which aired, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, on “Face the Nation.”
JOHN DICKERSON: Joining us now, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. Congratulations, Senator, on Clemson’s big win the other night–
LINDSEY GRAHAM: Go tigers! Number one–
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me pick up on something we were just talking about with the majority leader, which is on Roy Moore. The majority leader said voters of Alabama are going to decide. That seems like there’s a new standard. Basically, if it happened before he got into the Senate, the voters will decide. Sounds like he’s going to be a senator.
LINDSEY GRAHAM: I think the body can regulate itself. You know, at the end of the day, when he comes to the Senate (if he does), I think an ethics investigation would be a smart thing to do. And we’ll see what the ethics committee decides as to whether they look at behavior before he came into the Senate. Does that matter? If they do, what do they find? We’ll see.
JOHN DICKERSON: Could you have him be a senator, by your lights? I mean, would you be able to be, based on what you’ve heard, would you be okay with him being a senator?
LINDSEY GRAHAM: We can’t stop him from being seated. If there was an investigation and all six members of the committee said they believe he was a child molester, that’d be a problem.
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me move on to the president’s tweet this morning about the F.B.I. You’re on the judiciary committee–
LINDSEY GRAHAM: Right.
JOHN DICKERSON: You oversee the F.B.I. The president says, in the tweet, that “after years of Comey with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigations and more, running the F.B.I.,” he’s talking about Comey there, “its reputation is in tatters. Worst in history. But fear not,” he says. “We’ll bring it back to greatness.” F.B.I., worst in history? In tatters? Do you agree?
LINDSEY GRAHAM: No. I think Comey needs to answer questions as his time as director. I think he made some decisions that they were really very, very wrong. I would just say this with the president. There’s an ongoing criminal investigation; Comey may be part of it. You tweet and comment regarding ongoing criminal investigations at your own peril. I’d be careful if I were you, Mr. President. I’d watch this.
JOHN DICKERSON: You were a former prosecutor. Along those lines, the president has said he knew that Flynn lied to the F.B.I. And yet, he has called the investigation into whether Flynn lied to the F.B.I. a witch hunt. And because it was a witch hunt, he fired James Comey. How can you know that you lied to the F.B.I. and then fire the F.B.I. director for investigating that?
LINDSEY GRAHAM: I think, number one, what Flynn lied about is not a crime. I don’t think it’s wrong for a transition person to talk to a foreign government about change in policy. I don’t think the Logan Act is worth the paper it’s written on. So I’m not really worried about what happened after the election in terms of trying to communicate with the Russians about the Israeli resolution or about sanctions.
It comes down to the following to me. Was there any effort by the Trump campaign to coordinate with Russian intelligence services or any entity controlled by the Russians to receive benefit during the election? And they found the one guy that would know that.
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you, though, on that question of obstruction, because that’s the other thing that’s a part of this issue. And if you know he lied to the F.B.I., how can you say an investigation into whether he lied to the F.B.I. is a witch hunt that Comey should be fired for carrying out?
LINDSEY GRAHAM: Apparently, this statement is by the president’s lawyer.
JOHN DICKERSON: Yeah.
LINDSEY GRAHAM: He says I didn’t know. He wasn’t in on the interview. He did know that he lied to the vice-president. The vice-president was very upset; he took action. To me, that’s not the issue. Here’s the issue, if I — from my point of view. If there was coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, I can’t think of a person who would know more about that than Flynn.
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you, on the national security front, though, you’re very critical of the Russians for interfering in the election–
LINDSEY GRAHAM: Yeah, they did.
JOHN DICKERSON: Yeah. And a former Obama administration official says the interference was the cyber-equivalent or espionage equivalent of 9/11. So if after that kind of an event, give me your foreign policy judgment about an incoming administration that then says to the perpetrators of an event that that’s serious, hey, let’s work out a deal on these sanctions that are going to punish you for that behavior. Don’t overreact because we’ll be on your side later when we’re in the administration. Give me your national security judgment.
LINDSEY GRAHAM: Okay. Number one, the Obama administration sure didn’t act like it was a 9/11. They were late to the game and did the least amount possible. What they did in the interim before Trump took office was a slap on the wrist. So I don’t buy that whole narrative. I don’t have a problem with the Trump administration reaching out to the Russians. We’re going to take a different view about sanctions. And we’re going to seek your help in the U.N. Security Council.
JOHN DICKERSON: Even given your rough opinion of the Russians and what they did, it’s okay to play footsie?
LINDSEY GRAHAM: Yeah, well, here’s what I’m saying. That behavior after the election is reaching out to a foreign government, then we have a different view about things. I’m not here to condemn the president about that. Here’s what I’m saying — that collusion between a campaign and a foreign government is unacceptable. There is no evidence of collusion. Nobody’s been charged with it. But you found the one person who would know if it did exist. So it won’t be long before we understand, one way or the other, whether Trump people colluded with Russia. Because I can’t imagine it happening and Flynn not know about it.
JOHN DICKERSON: Let’s take a quick break we’ll be right back on the other side of that, we’ll be right back.