Transcript: Sen. Lindsey Graham on "Face the Nation," Oct. 1, 2023

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The following is a transcript of an interview with Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, that aired on "Face the Nation" on Oct. 1, 2023.

MARGARET BRENNAN

We're back now with South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, good to have you here in person. Senator, you just voted for a short term deal that doesn't include a cent for Ukraine nor for the US border. Right. How did you swallow that?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM

We had to keep the government open. We got 45 days to fix both problems. I listened to Kevin closely, there will come out of the Senate soon, a bill that will have three legs to it. Disaster funding, we need more, not less robust funding for Ukraine to get them through the next fighting season, not 24 billion, and a major effort to secure a border. I believe there's bipartisan support in the Senate to do both. And it will go to the house hopefully in the next 30 days.

MARGARET BRENNAN

What the speaker was talking about, though, was a bill HR 2 regarding the border that Senate Democrats will never get on board. So what are you talking about?

SEN. GRAHAM

There will be a conflict.

MARGARET BRENNAN

Right.

SEN. GRAHAM

So we got to fix asylum. We need border security agent increases. We need more detention beds. I think there's Democratic support for major border security reform. But we have to attach it to Ukraine. To those who say we need to fix our border, you're right. To those who say we need to help Ukraine, you're right. To those who say we need to do the border, not Ukraine, you're wrong. The vast majority of Senate Republicans would support a combination of border security Ukraine funding and disaster aid.

MARGARET BRENNAN

Well, when it comes to the house, and the idea that we ought to move swiftly, right, the White House told Republican leadership that they don't have enough funding for Ukraine to make it through 45 days and the authorities they have are insufficient. Well, so how much time are you talking about needing?

SEN. GRAHAM

You know, I've been around a while I'm wearing a pin, do you think I would leave Ukraine? I don't believe that one bit. This same White House says we don't need to have F-16s. We don't need himars, we don't need tanks, I've lost confidence for what's going on in Ukraine, we've got a bunch of allies, they can help for six weeks, the Allies have spent more money in Ukraine than we have. And when you hear otherwise, it's just not true. It's been good burden sharing. But I'm not worried about the next six weeks, I'm worried about next year, we will produce in the United States Senate, Ukraine funding 60 or 70 billion, not 24. To get them through next year. We will have a border security measure that is strong, and we will have additional disaster aid cause the nation needs it. We're gonna do those three things. And I'm hoping our House colleagues will react positively to it. I think Kevin is the right guy at the right time, the only way he loses his job is if a handful of Republicans join up with the Democratic Party to fire him. That would be a disaster for the future, the Republican Party, that's not gonna happen. Kevin has the overwhelming confidence of his membership. He worked to avoid a shutdown. He will help Ukraine but he's telling everybody in the country including me, you better send something over for the border for me to help Ukraine. And he's right to make that demand.

MARGARET BRENNAN

Understand, but your look, you're talking about to be clear, a supplemental bigger than $24 billion for Ukraine –

SEN. GRAHAM

A lot bigger.

MARGARET BRENNAN

– and that's going to pass in 45 days?

SEN. GRAHAM

Oh, absolutely. You know why? Cause we need it. We haven't lost one soldier in the Ukraine.

MARGARET BRENNAN
Yeah.

We spent less than 5% of our military budget 50% of the Russian army has been destroyed by the Ukrainians. They would be at Crimea already. If you the administration hadn't been so slow and given weapons,

MARGARET BRENNAN

Well and we dedicate a lot of time to Ukraine on this program. So we find it important, but I want to ask you because Leader McConnell had gone into the lunch yesterday telling Senate leaders that he believed the White House when they said they were running out of funding for Ukraine, and then his deputies apparently urged him to drop it, which is how you ended up with this bill with nothing in it for Ukraine. Is he in control of the caucus?

SEN. GRAHAM

Senator McConnell has been great in Ukraine, but he picked a formula to lose votes for Ukraine. To expect people like me and others to vote for Ukraine aid without border security is unreasonable. Mitch made a miscalculation. He's been great on Ukraine. I've told him a thousand times.The key to Ukraine funding is to deal with a broken border. 107,000 Americans have died from fentanyl poisoning from fentanyl coming across the southern border. We haven't lost one soldier in Ukraine. So America is being invaded from a broken southern border. To my Democratic colleagues, you need to take border security seriously.

MARGARET BRENNAN

Yeah. Are you saying that Ukraine should not be a standalone it has to be –

SEN. GRAHAM

– it will not be a standalone. When I go to South Carolina, I openly talk about helping Ukraine. If you let Putin get away with this, you have a bigger war. Well, what about our border? I promise people in South Carolina I'm going to do two things. I'm going to help secure our border and keep the fight going in Ukraine to make sure that Putin doesn't get away with this.

MARGARET BRENNAN

Have you asked Donald Trump, your friend, to come out and publicly support more aid to Ukraine and to push some of these skeptical members of the republican conference?

SEN. GRAHAM

I'll leave it up him to what to do. But he wanted to get out of Afghanistan.

MARGARET BRENNAN

Well, Vladimir Putin has been praising him for his comments about President Trump.

SEN. GRAHAM

Yeah well here's what I'll say about President Trump. He did not pull the plug on Afghanistan, even though he wanted to. The biggest mistake we made since the war on terror is withdrawing from Afghanistan, to President Trump and anybody else. If we pull the plug on Ukraine, that's 10 times worse than Afghanistan. There goes Taiwan. To stop funding Ukraine is a death sentence for Taiwan. Putin will keep going. You missed all of World War II if you don't know how this movie ends. To the Republicans who say, Ukraine doesn't matter to us, you're wrong. Respectfully, you're wrong. The war gets bigger, not smaller. There goes Taiwan. If Ukraine can beat Russia, China's less likely to invade Taiwan and Putin gets stopped.

MARGARET BRENNAN

I need to take a break here. But we have more to talk about with you, Senator. You will. Senator Graham's gonna stay with us and we're gonna talk about the legacy as well of Senator Dianne Feinstein on the other side of that break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARGARET BRENNAN

Senator Graham was one of the Republicans, as you saw there in that piece, who worked with Senator Feinstein actually quite closely –

SEN. GRAHAM

Yeah.

MARGARET BRENNAN

– on the Judiciary Committee.

SEN. GRAHAM

She was great. When I first got to the Senate, somebody told me, and I'll protect their their name here. If you want to get anything done, see if you can get Ted Kennedy and or Dianne Feinstein to help you, because if they got on your bill or your idea, people in the Democratic caucus would listen. Ted was the lion. She was the lioness. She could move votes. She knew how to get to yes on controversial things. She was always kind. She was always prepared. She was a defense hawk. She was socially liberal. She was my friend, I miss her. And if you're looking for a role model in politics, as a young man or woman, look to her life.

MARGARET BRENNAN

You know, there is also that image of her embracing you after the very contentious hearing, Supreme Court Justice, Amy Coney Barrett, and she was criticized from within her own party for praising how you conducted yourself. How do you think about that now?

SEN. GRAHAM

Well, that says more about the current state of affairs than Diane. Diane was saying nice things. We had a like a five second hug and because she wanted to say something nice about me they thought she had to be up to committee that's what's wrong with - Diane wasn't the problem. She was the solution. And there are people on my side, it goes both ways. So let let's just do this. Let's reflect on well lived life. America is better for Dianne Feinstein having served our country, California is better for it. And we lost a lot. We just didn't lose a person. We lost an idea. And I want to re - my contribution is to try to reinvigorate the idea it's okay to be tough and kind. It's okay to be liberal or conservative. But it's even more okay to work for America. And that's what she did. We've lost a lot with Diane. And so the rest of us, we're gonna have to up our game.

MARGARET BRENNAN

Before I let you go. I want to quickly ask you she was also an outspoken proponent of abortion access, right.

SEN. GRAHAM

She was.

MARGARET BRENNAN

Are you going to reintroduce your bill limiting it to 15 weeks of access, which has kind of become a litmus test for a lot of these presidential candidates. Donald Trump has not signed on he said he didn't like 15 weeks.

SEN. GRAHAM

My bill has exceptions for rape, incest, life of the mother. 47 or 50 European nation of 50 European nations limit abortion from 12 to 15 weeks. 15 weeks the baby can suck its thumb and feel pain. I will introduce that bill. I want America to be like the civilized world, not China, or North Korea. It's a debate worthy of a great country to have this debate and we will have it.

MARGARET BRENNAN

Senator Graham, thank you for your time. We'll be back in a moment.

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