Interview with Senator Lindsey Graham

Interview with Senator Lindsey Graham

By John King, USA - July 6, 2011

KING: The Obama administration's treatment of the Somali terrorist suspect including the decision to bring him to New York and indict him like a common criminal isn't sitting well with some lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Among the Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Senator Graham, we learned this morning that a gentleman by the name of Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame was taken into custody more than two months ago, kept on a U.S. ship, questioned and he's now in custody in New York and indictment sealed against him. The administration handled this case right? SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: No, I don't think so. The last thing I'm worried about is prosecuting enemy fighters. I want to find out what they know about the enemy, what intelligence value do they have to the United States?

Having people on ships has never been used in warfare before in terms of prisons. He should have been sent to Guantanamo Bay and held as an enemy combatant slowly, methodically, lawfully interrogated.

KING: Well, the administration would make the case it believes it has interrogated him sufficiently, believes that it has received information from him and now thinks he should move on to the next step to bring him to justice. What's wrong with that?

GRAHAM: Well, look at how long it took to put the puzzle together to catch Bin Laden. What if everybody at Guantamo Bay had been held for 60 days then given Miranda rights and provided a lawyer? Do you think we would have put the puzzle together?

You need to hold people off the battlefield and gather intelligence. That's what you do in war. When you capture an enemy prisoner the last thing you think of is prosecution.

You think of holding the people and gathering intelligence. This model of keeping them on a ship for 60 days and saying that's the best way to gather intelligence justifies common sense.

KING: As you know, some Democrats including the administration with some Democratic colleagues in the senate as well think that people like yourself who have this argument make too much of it. That you're minimizing the impact of the court system here in the United States. Listen to Senator Durbin of Illinois.


SENATOR DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: The facts are that under President Bush after 9/11 and under President Obama, more than 400 suspected terrorists have been tried in the criminal courts of America, Article 3 constitutional courts, and convicted.

They've been tried in our courts and convicted. They're serving time in the prisons of the United States of America. That's right, convicted terrorists, convicted in criminal courts, now serving time in prisons across America.


KING: You don't disagree with that, but you think philosophically that should not be the priority, am I right?

GRAHAM: One, I don't buy the idea that 400 enemy fighters, noncitizens captured on the battlefield have been tried in Article 3 courts. Having said that, I'm OK with using federal courts in some terrorist cases.

The point I'm trying to make with all due respect to Senator Durbin, he is fighting a crime. I am fighting a war, and in war you don't capture people for the purpose of prosecution.

You capture people to keep them off the battlefield and gather intelligence, and criminal prosecutions stop the intelligence gathering process.

KING: Let me ask you about another big terrorism case. As I do so, I want to remind people you are active in the military reserves and are a military lawyer. So you have an understanding of these issues.

The Army general has approved now the death penalty possibility for Major Nadal Hasan, the Fort Hood alleged shooter. Capital court marshals are very rare in this country, is that the right way to go?

GRAHAM: Under the uniform code of military justice, the death penalty is available penalty in limited cases, multiple murders like this case. I'm not going to second guess the military. I think it was a sound decision.

But let me tell you this. We have a number of foreign fighters in our prisons in Afghanistan under America jurisdiction. These people need to be taken out of Afghanistan, put in Guantanamo Bay because if we turn them over to the Afghan legal system they're going to be right back on the streets, and they're non-Afghans.

We need a rational policy to deal with foreign fighters. Don't put them on a ship or criminalize the war. Major Hasan is an American citizen being tried in a military court. The death penalty is being sought. That is a reasonable way for it. He'll be provided a robust defense.

KING: I want to shift your attention to domestic issues. Lindsey Graham is a big supporter of a balance budget amendment. You think it is necessary to bring what you call fiscal sanity here in Washington.

It is one thing that some Republicans are insisting on as part of any big deal with the president on deficit and debt reduction. Your good friend, Senator John McCain on the floor of the Senate just a earlier today said set it aside. Let's listen.


SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: In order to avoid what would be disastrous consequences for our markets, our economy as a whole, and our standing in the world, I encourage my colleagues to lay aside at least temporarily their insistence that amending the constitution be a condition of their support for a solution to this terrible problem.


KING: Is he wrong or right?

GRAHAM: Well, he certainly is entitled to his opinion, and I respect him greatly. Here's my view. Neither party will ever balance the budget in a sustained manner without a constitutional amendment.

In 1997 when the Republicans controlled the House and President Clinton was president, we had surpluses. The republican Congress along with the Democratic president spent all the money. We will do that again.

The only way I can honestly tell people in South Carolina we'll ever get out of debt is have a constitutional amendment to balance the budget and let the states have a say about what to do up here.

So with all due respect, I think insisting upon a balanced budget amendment of the constitution is the only sure way to get out of debt. That's sad but true in my view.

KING: Your friend Senator McCain also said today that Republicans need to drop their blanket opposition to any tax increases. He says if you get significant cuts, if you get other big changes to entitlement programs, he thinks Republicans should be open to at least some tax increases to strike a compromise with the president. Is he wrong there, too?

GRAHAM: I think what he's saying is that we should not raise tax rates, but close loopholes and deductions. There's $1.2 trillion given away in the tax code to special interest groups.

I am willing to take those deductions and exemptions off the table and recapture that revenue and buy down rates to create jobs and pay off the debt.

That is the best way I think to raise revenue is to grow the economy, but do deductions and exemptions, remove those and don't raise rates. I think that's what John is saying and that's what I agree with. I would be willing to do that.

I would be willing to flatten the tax code and take the money that we give out in deductions and exemptions to lower rates and pay off the debt.

KING: Lindsey Graham, you think there will be a deal with the president in the next two weeks?

GRAHAM: I don't think so. I just don't like the way it's shaping up. I'm really, really worried that we're going to play a game of chicken here. I don't have a good feeling about it. I hope I'm wrong.

KING: Senator Graham, we'll check back in as the next two weeks unfold. Thanks for your time tonight.

GRAHAM: Thank you.


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