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Transcript: Sen. Lindsey Graham on "Face the Nation," Feb. 18, 2024

Graham backs House plan on border security, foreign aid
Graham "very optimistic" about emerging House plan for border security and Ukraine, Israel aid 09:17

The following is a transcript of an interview with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina that aired on Feb. 18, 2024.


ROBERT COSTA: South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham who opposed the bipartisan Senate legislation joins us now from Clemson, South Carolina. Senator, good morning. At this point do you expect--

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Morning.

ROBERT COSTA: --any new U.S. assistance for Ukraine from Congress?

SEN. GRAHAM: Yes, I do. I feel very optimistic after having been on the phone all weekend, talking with my House colleagues, that there's a way forward regarding the border and Ukraine. The Problem Solvers Caucus, Congressman Fitzpatrick and Gott- Gottsenheim, I'm sorry, Josh, I can't remember your last name here, Gosenheim  --

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERT COSTA: Gottheim- Josh Gottheimer from New Jersey.

(END CROSSTALK)

SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah, yeah, they've got a pretty creative idea. Here's what they're saying. Let's go back to Remain in Mexico as a border security policy. And that was the number one request of the Border Patrol on our visit to Texas, Senator Scott, go back to Remain in Mexico, you have to wait in Mexico for your asylum claim, you're not released in the United States. And secondly, to reinstitute Title 42. Those two things on the border, I think, are simple, will work. And they want to slim down the aid package to 60 billion, all lethal aid. And here's what I told them. I think that's the winning combination. I suggested making the lethal aid a loan, like President Trump has suggested. The Europeans gave Ukraine $50 billion, 33 of it was a loan. So I think if you turn the lethal aid into a loan, do Remain in Mexico, Title 42. That combination not only gets through the House, it picks up votes in the Senate, it would be welcome relief to the Ukraine, it'd be a blow to Putin. It will also help Israel and Taiwan. 

ROBERT COSTA: Senator Graham, let's stop there for a moment. You stunned many of your colleagues and U.S. allies around the world when you opposed this recent--

SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah, yeah, I did.

ROBERT COSTA: No, you did, with opposing this bipartisan legislation. Now, it seems you are prepared to support this emerging House legislation from some of these centrist Republicans and Democrats. To be clear, this is a $66 billion package that goes across Israel, Ukraine, and border security. Are you saying this morning that you are a yes vote on the Fitzpatrick House proposal?

SEN. GRAHAM: Yes, I'm saying that the House proposal, it depends on how it's written, makes perfect sense to me. I think you'll pick up six to eight Republicans who want to help Ukraine, but believed that the bipartisan- bipartisan border bill was not sufficient enough. Why did I vote no? I want to help ourselves by securing our border. I want to help Ukraine, Taiwan, and Israel. The border provisions were- were not adequate--

ROBERT COSTA: Understood.

SEN. GRAHAM: --in the task, though there were many good things. So- so Remain in Mexico--

ROBERT COSTA: Right.

SEN. GRAHAM: --is the number one game changer. You put that in the package, you slim down the package to lethal aid, but I don't- I would support humanitarian aid, smaller in number, if it was a loan. Again, the Europeans have made 33 of their $50 billion transfer to Ukraine a loan. Let's make it a loan. I think that gets you President Trump on the- the aid part. Let's go to Remain in Mexico. We got a package at work, and as to- as to what happened in Russia with [Navalny], [Navalny] was one of the bravest people I have ever met. When he went back to Russia, he had to know he was going to be killed by Putin. And he was murdered by Putin. So what- why don't we do this? I just got off the phone with two Democratic senators. Let's make Russia a state sponsor of terrorism under U.S. law. Let's make them pay a price for killing [Navalny]. It would allow the [Navalny] family to go to U.S. court and sue Putin's Russia for killing of their loved one. A state sponsored terrorism designation is a game changer. It would allow more sanctions, it would open up the American courtroom. I've been pushing on this for a year--

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERT COSTA: Do you expect legislation on that this week?

(END CROSSTALK)

SEN. GRAHAM: Yes, absolutely. President Biden told Putin if something happens to [Navalny], you're going to pay a price. President Biden, I agree with you. The price they should pay is to make Russia a state sponsor of terrorism like Iran, Cuba and North Korea. They deserve this designation. Putin's been killing people, opposition leaders, for decades now. He's dismembered Syria. He's one of the world's worst actors--

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERT COSTA: Senator Graham--

SEN. GRAHAM: He's an indicted war criminal. Yeah.

(END CROSSTALK)

ROBERT COSTA: I want to come back to what you said about this news you just made that you're now supporting House legislation on Ukraine funding after opposing the Senate legislation. You said you--

SEN.GRAHAM: --Yes--

ROBERT COSTA: --Think you can get former President Trump to buy in on some components. That's a big guess. Have you spoken to former President Trump about your new support for this House bill? And are you confident you can convince him to not try to kill what Brian Fitzpatrick, the House member from Pennsylvania, is putting forward?

SEN. GRAHAM: Good question. I have not spoken to President Trump about this package. I spoke to President Trump earlier in the week about making the aid to Ukraine a loan. This was his idea, not mine. You know, we did lend lease to Britain. We're $34 trillion in debt. Ukraine has minerals, have a lot of resources. Israel has a strong economy. They'd been hurt badly by October the 7th. Taiwan is a pretty rich nation. Why don't we do this make a favorable loan to all three of these allies? Let them pay us back when they can, if they can, because we're 34 trillion in debt. That's the Trump idea. If you embrace that, I think you'll get a lot of votes in the House and the Senate. President Trump says let's wait on the border. With all due respect, we cannot wait. It's a national security nightmare. A 2,000% increase in people on the terrorist watch list coming across the border. In two years, 5 billion people could be killed by the amount of fentanyl coming across our southern border. The largest loss of life of young people in America is fentanyl poisoning coming across the southern border. So I don't want to wait, I want to act now on the border. I want to turn the aid package into a loan. That makes perfect sense to me. And I think the bipartisan Problem Solvers group has an idea that will sell. So--

ROBERT COSTA: --Sure.

SEN. GRAHAM: If you're Putin, I want you to know we're not going to pull the plug on Ukraine. We're going to come after you. We're going to make your country a state sponsor of terrorism, you're gonna pay a heavy price for murdering this brave man.

ROBERT COSTA: But Putin's watching what's happening in Congress. And he must wonder, where is the Republican Party these days? Former President Trump has been invited by President Zelenskyy--

SEN. GRAHAM: --Yeah.

ROBERT COSTA:--To come to the front lines. Should he do that? And do you have any concerns, Senator Graham, with how former President Trump has spoken about NATO allies? And how he has said if they're delinquent on payments to NATO, well, Russia can do whatever the heck it wants. Is that appropriate? Especially in terms of U.S. foreign policy?

SEN. GRAHAM: I think what's appropriate is for everybody to meet the obligation of 2%. Sam Nunn in 1984 threatened to withdraw 30,000 troops a year from NATO if they didn't make the 3% number back in the '80s. So here's what I think. They should pay up. 19 of 31 NATO nations do not contribute 2% of GDP. I want to have a system where if you don't pay, you get kicked out. But no, I'm not inviting Russia to invade Ukraine. President Trump is right to want NATO nations to meet their obligation of 2%. We need to turn it into an obligation that means something. I'm a big fan of NATO. But there's $70-$80 billion left on the table. If you're in NATO, pay the 2%.

ROBERT COSTA: Final thing here, Senator Graham, Special Counsel Hur is scheduled to go before the House Judiciary Committee in the coming weeks. You're on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Do you plan to push to have him testify before your committee?

SEN. GRAHAM: We'll leave that up to Senator Durbin. I got some ideas about that. But I just want to end it. One, thank you for having me on the show. I see a pathway forward now for Ukraine, Taiwan, and- and Israel. I see a way to secure our border in a more simple fashion. Let's make Russia a state sponsor of terrorism. All of this can happen in the next 30 days. It would be a game changer for the world. So we'll see what happens.

ROBERT COSTA: The talks seemed dead, now they seem alive. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Thank you.

SEN. GRAHAM: Thank you.

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