On December 31, 2023, an interview with Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, was broadcasted. The transcript of the interview is provided below.
Margaret Brennan: Now, let’s shift our focus to a key player in the negotiations, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who joins us from Seneca, South Carolina. Welcome back to the show, Senator.
Senator Lindsey Graham expresses his gratitude.
Can you and the Republicans involved in this negotiation convince the party to agree with all the significant elements of the proposed deal that have been laid out for you?
Senator Graham expressed his hope for action to be taken, not only for the sake of Ukraine, but also for the protection of our own national security. He emphasized that the ongoing issues at the border pose a serious threat to America’s safety, with an increase in threats from jihadist groups and a broken border allowing for a significant influx of people. Senator Graham urged the administration to utilize Title 42 authority to declare that the country is at capacity and to expedite the deportation process for the 1.7 million individuals who are ready to be deported. He believes that enforcing this authority would deter individuals from attempting to cross the border and send a message that America cannot accept any more people at this time.
Can you specify the threshold number for implementing this policy? And to clarify, would this policy permit the removal of migrants without a hearing for asylum?
Senator Graham: At zero.
Margaret Brennan apologizes.
Senator Graham suggested that due to the ongoing pandemic, people are being turned away at the border. He also mentioned that the current immigration system is flawed and that mayors are requesting additional funding to assist with the relocation of migrants. He expressed uncertainty about whether Governor Abbott’s state law regarding this issue will hold up in court, but understands his desire to protect his state. He urged mayors to contact the White House and request changes to asylum and parole policies, while also implementing Title 42 authority to prevent further influx of migrants. He emphasized that the country is already at capacity and advised against further immigration.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We will speak with the mayor regarding this matter. They have requested assistance from the Biden administration. However, are you implying that there is no current consensus on the power to expel among your group of negotiators?
Senator Graham stated that expedited removal is being considered and there is a push for more exceptions to make the rule less effective. Changing policy has been a difficult process and he believes the current situation at the border is not due to irregular migration, but rather a result of poor decisions made by the Biden administration. He also predicted that implementing a “remain in Mexico” policy would lead to a surge at the border.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well you know, the Supreme Court got involved in that and that’s complicated with the Mexican government too but–
Senator Graham: No, it’s not complex.
Senator Graham stated that it is not a difficult matter.
MARGARET BRENNAN: In interviews, you hinted that the issue of parole was a particular point of contention, particularly in regards to that aspect of the policy.
Senator Graham: It remains the same.
Can you still agree to it or is it a deal breaker for you? What modifications do you want to make?
Senator Graham stated that individuals should be paroled based on their individual circumstances according to our law. However, he believes that humanitarian parole, which is not a legal concept, is being used to release 145,000 people at once. He wants to uphold the original purpose of the law and make changes to address the abuse of the Asylum laws. He also proposes that Title 42 authority be reinstated due to the belief that America has reached its capacity. He suggests slowing down the asylum system and deporting the 1.7 billion people waiting for hearings before allowing new individuals to enter.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You stated that you are not requesting what the House was requiring, specifically the bill known as H.R. 2.
Senator Graham: Correct H.R 2. Correct.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, have you discussed with Speaker Johnson the potential items he would consider presenting for a vote?
SEN. GRAHAM: Yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What actions is he willing to take?
Senator Graham is advocating for policy changes to address the pull factors that are causing an increase in immigration. He believes that these changes, such as asylum reform and limitations on parole, could be enough to gain support in the House. He also suggests that the enforcement of deportations could slow down the influx of people at the border. He urges the Biden administration to take action in this regard, stating that those who are in the country illegally may face deportation under Trump’s presidency.
Margaret Brennan: Some of the countries mentioned have resumed their activities regarding Venezuela, but there are complex diplomatic factors at play. I want to ask about the connection to Ukraine. Russia recently launched a major missile attack on Kyiv, one of the most significant since the war began. This occurred just days after the US sent its final shipment of aid for 2023. Is there a connection between these events? When will aid for Ukraine be approved by the Senate?
Senator Graham stated that he supports providing assistance to Israel in the form of weapons due to their current struggles. He also acknowledges the urgency of helping Ukraine, but believes that the United States must prioritize addressing our own border issues before providing aid. He expresses concern about the chaos at the border and the humanitarian consequences it has on individuals. However, he also emphasizes the importance of national security and suggests that aid to Ukraine should be linked to addressing the border situation.
Margaret Brennan: Yes, that is correct. However, we have not yet reached an agreement on the border.
SEN. GRAHAM: Right.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Both appear to be in danger at the moment.
Senator Graham stated that the administration needs to acknowledge that the country is at full capacity. He suggested that if given the necessary tools, they can prevent further immigration and begin deporting those who are not supposed to be in the country. By accepting these tools, the Biden administration can make significant changes and secure funding for Ukraine.
Margaret Brennan: As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I would like to discuss the current situation regarding the potential involvement of the Supreme Court in election-related cases. In 2021, after the Senate impeachment trial, you stated that Donald Trump’s actions are subject to the law and if he committed a crime, he could face prosecution even after leaving office. Do you still hold the view that Mr. Trump could face criminal charges?
Senator Graham stated that the extent of liability depends on the actions taken. If the President was still in office on January 6th and investigating the validity of the election, his claim of immunity may hold some validity. However, he is facing charges related to his involvement on January 6th, despite not physically entering the Capitol building. Although his speech was passionate, it is not unprecedented. It is unlikely that this case will go to trial before the election due to numerous legal considerations surrounding the actions a President can take while in office.
Margaret Brennan: Just to clarify, do you think a president should be exempt from being prosecuted for a felony?
Senator Graham stated that while nobody is above the law, the president has immunity to perform their duties. He also mentioned his own immunity under the Speech and Debate Clause. He believes that the issue of presidential immunity was already addressed during impeachment and that the events of January 6th will not change the political outcome. He also believes that President Trump has a good chance of winning the Republican primary and the general election, despite attempts to remove him from the ballot in states like Maine. He disagrees with the Secretary of State in Maine, who he views as radical, for stating that the Electoral College is a result of white supremacy, instead seeing it as a product of negotiations between small and large states.
MARGARET BRENNAN: As you have explained, all of this will be brought before the courts.
Senator Graham: It certainly will.
Margaret Brennan will discuss this topic with our election law expert, David Becker. It’s great to have you here, Senator Graham.