AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – The pandemic, protests, and politics have dominated the headlines recently, and this week The Means Report turned to South Carolina Senior Senator, Lindsey Graham. He discusses his call for Robert Mueller to testify, as well as the possibility for a second stimulus payment later this year.
Brad Means: Senator, thanks for your hard work for this country, and thanks for joining me today.
Sen. Lindsey Graham: Thanks, Brad, I really appreciate it.
Brad Means: Listen, my first question is just going back to that pandemic, protest and politics thing I mentioned at the top of the broadcast. It feels like the country is in a chaotic state right now. How much longer is that gonna last?
Sen. Lindsey Graham: Well, let’s kinda drill into that. The Great Depression, I’m too young to remember it, but I’ve read about it, the whole world economy collapsed because of structural problems with the economy throughout the world. It really didn’t rebound until World War II. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, everybody rose to the occasion. They didn’t know when the war would be over, but the goal was to take Tokyo and Berlin. We made it through the Great Depression, we made it through World War II. We’re gonna make it through this pandemic. Now here’s the good news. The economy was shutdown for healthcare reasons. This is not the Great Depression. There wasn’t a systematic problem with the economy. Before the coronavirus, the economy was the best it’s been probably in my lifetime, reaching every corner of America. African-American, Hispanic incomes were going up, wages were going up. We shut the economy down because of the pandemic which came out of China. So how does this end? Well, when we get a vaccine, which I think will be late this year, early next year, that can deal with the pandemic, the coronavirus, like the flu, then we’ll have turned the corner on the illness. What we need is a vaccine and drug therapies that keep people out of the hospital, lower the mortality rate, and eventually immunize the population against the coronavirus like we’ve done with the flu. We’ve come to live with the flu. People die every year from the flu, but we don’t shut down the economy because of the flu, we don’t stop playing sports because of the flu. So when does this turn around? When we get a vaccine and drug therapies, and we’re closer today than we were just 60 days ago. In terms of the protest.
Brad Means: Yeah, let me ask you this. Let me jump in real quick and ask you about the protests, and in your answer, just kinda tackle this part of it, and that is are we too busy fighting each other to worry about our enemies, and is this a prime time for them to come at us?
Sen. Lindsey Graham: Well, you know, it’s okay to protest. It’s a good thing. A lot of people can’t protest, so what’s happened here is there’s really a revolution going on within the Democratic party. The Tea Party Movement was real for the Republican party. There was a sort of a declaration of war on the Republican establishment. We kinda got wrapped around the axle, and Donald Trump has united the party, so what you see is the Democratic party breaking down in different camps, the AOC, the Squad group, Omar, that crowd, have very radical views on the economy, the environment, and America itself. George Floyd united the country. I have yet to find anybody that was not offended by the murder of George Floyd. Police reform is an absolute necessity. I support the police, but we need to reform the way we police.
Brad Means: Well, your colleague, Senator Tim Scott– Senator Tim Scott tried to reform your party, police reform. Your party did not seem too united then. Why couldn’t you guys in the Senate get behind him?
Sen. Lindsey Graham: Well, I think you sort of missed the story there, Brad. Every Republican was behind Tim. The Democrats blocked the vote. It wasn’t a Republican problem. Every Republican supported Tim Scott’s efforts to bring about police reform. It was the Democrats who stopped us from bringing the bill to the floor, ’cause I think they want the issue more than they want a solution, and that’s a fact, that’s not me saying it. Go check it out. Go check out and see how that effort ended. Tim Scott has been stopped six or seven times on Capitol Hill as an African-American senator from South Carolina. I’ve never been stopped. Most African-American males are given a talk with their young men about how to behave around the police. We’ve got a problem. Having said that, thank God for the police. Let’s make it better, let’s don’t defund the police. So these protests around the killing of Mr. Floyd have, I think, are gonna make America stronger. The protests around America herself, destroying the statues of our founding fathers, declaring war on our culture and who we are, that’s gonna wind up creating a backlash, so the people who want to tear down statues of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln, and burn down a Catholic church, and attack the statues of Mother Mary, I think they’re gonna be rejected soundly at the ballot box.
Brad Means: You know, just to clarify, you’re right. The Senate Republicans did try to get Tim Scott’s legislation through, and I apologize for the way I presented the question.
Sen. Lindsey Graham: That’s okay.
Brad Means: Well, no, and I appreciate it, I do. I guess a better way to come at it would be there’s this perception that since you have the majority in the Senate, you all should be able to get things done, and obviously that didn’t happen.
Sen. Lindsey Graham: Yeah, well, you need 60 votes unless you want to change the rules of the Senate, and you got the House, who passed a police reform measure that basically, you know– Destroying the police is the worst thing you can do for poor people. Poor people need the police more than rich people ’cause rich people find a way to take care of themselves. Working people need order and chaos to go– Order to prevent chaos so they can go to work. So this idea of cutting police budgets only helps crooks and it hurts poor people.
Brad Means: You think South Carolina should get rid of all of its Confederate monuments?
Sen. Lindsey Graham: I think that’s a discussion that’d be done here at the state level. Our history is what it is, let’s learn from it. You can’t erase it. You have to embrace the fact that we’re not a perfect union. Let’s strive to be more perfect, so the idea of Robert E. Lee, I think, you know, he led the rebellion. He sided with Virginia. He was compelled to do that as an individual, but after the war, he was– Made reconciliation possible. He told the Confederate soldiers lay down your weapons, go back to your homes, and be good Americans. So the point is that there’s a way to do things. Let’s do the rule of law. We took the Confederate flag down through the legislative process. People in Charleston took the Calhoun monument down through the legislative process. South Carolina has shown the ability to deal with these issues. We just don’t do it through the mob, and monuments to our country, I think, represent who we are, and they can’t be taken down by mob rule.
Brad Means: I want to go back to that vaccine, Senator Graham, and ask you this. You mentioned possibly end of the year, beginning of next year. That’s too late, obviously, for the election. Do your party’s reelection chances, the President’s reelection chances, hinge on that vaccine coming sooner?
Sen. Lindsey Graham: I think the Republican party’s future depends on making this a choice election. If in October, the economy is beginning to reopen, we can go back to school safely, and a vaccine’s on the horizon, it’s just a matter of time ’til we get one, that would be good news for President Trump and the country as a whole, but this election’s gonna be about big choices. Do you want free healthcare for illegal immigrants? If you do, vote Democrat. If you think it’s a bad idea to decriminalize coming into the country and offering illegal immigrants free healthcare when they get here, vote Republican. If you want to keep your healthcare you enjoy at work through your employer, vote Republican ’cause Medicare for All, the Democratic proposal eliminates employer-based healthcare. There’s gonna be big differences. I’m all for helping the environment. I believe climate change is real. I think the Green New Deal is radical and will destroy the economy. It won’t save the environment, so I believe in reforming the police, not defunding the police. The reason we’re gonna win, I think, is that President Trump’s policies were working before the coronavirus, and if you’re looking for somebody to rebuild the country post-coronavirus, I’d pick the guy who did it once, and not go back to the Obama/Biden era where things were not so good.
Brad Means: And there’s no way those schools are starting in a few weeks, don’t you think? Do you see that being delayed well into the fall? Schools and colleges.
Sen. Lindsey Graham: No, I don’t actually. I think we’re gonna go back to school safely. That’d be a local decision. I think we can find a way to construct the classrooms, but the downside of not going back to school, in terms of health issues and just the toll it takes on society is greater. There’s a risk to anything, so I am hopeful and believe that we will be going back to school, and we can construct our classrooms in a fashion to deal with social distancing and kids wearing a mask. I just talked to the Hospital Association. In South Carolina we’ve had a spike since Memorial Day. Memorial Day was kind of a disaster. They convinced me that if we would wear a mask, wash our hands, and use common sense regarding social distancing, the infection rate would go down pretty dramatically. I’m gonna do all I can to get a phase four package to help the hospitals and the economy in general, but each one of us is a soldier in this war against the virus. We’ll just use good common sense. It will pay enormous benefits.
Brad Means: You know, I know that my perception of things is probably a little bit skewed, because I sit up here every night and read all of these negative stories, and see all of these negative numbers, so the question when it comes to this pandemic is is somebody just generating a bunch of numbers and spinning them the way they want them to be spun, and that they’re really fake at some level? Because down here in Augusta, Georgia, and the part of South Carolina that we reach, you have a lot of scared people, parents and kids, who there’s no way they’re going back to school. The kids, maybe they’re not worried about. They’ll be fine, but those teachers don’t want to get it, and those principals don’t want to get it, so they’ll hold off.
Sen. Lindsey Graham: Well, I’ve talked to a lot of parents who are very anxious for their children to go back to school. They gotta work, and they want to do it safely, so no, I mean, this problem is real. I just talked to the Hospital Association. Myrtle Beach and Charleston are hotspots. We have a staffing problem, we’ve got bed space, but the doctors and nurses are being worn out. Again, Memorial Day, we went out and associated in a fashion that created a spike. So we’re gonna be making a decision in August and September about going back to school. That will be done in each state and by local control, I hope. That’s the way education should be run, but I would encourage people to do everything possible to go back to school. There’s a risk in everything you do. I don’t want to shut the economy back. Wear a mask when you go into the grocery store. Wear a mask when you go out and about. We just can’t shut the economy down again. That creates a healthcare crisis in a different fashion, and again, I do believe that most people want to send their kids back to school. Most teachers want to go back to school. We need more testing, ’cause the more people you can test, the more safely you can reopen schools, so hopefully in phase four, we’ll be spending some money to set up classrooms that are safe, and invest in testing that will give us better input as to who can and can’t go back to school.
Brad Means: When we come back, our conversation with South Carolina senior senator, Lindsey Graham continues. We’ll cover the upcoming election. We’ll take a look at that pandemic and the hospitals’ capacity going forward on this special edition of The Means Report. Stay with us.
Brad Means: Welcome back to The Means Report. We are talking with South Carolina senator, Lindsey Graham. We hit the pandemic pretty hard in our first segment, Senator. Let me just get you to comment on the hospital capacity going forward. I know you’re meeting with South Carolina healthcare leaders this week. How do you feel about us having enough beds?
Sen. Lindsey Graham: Well, I’m concerned about the staffing. We’re having more and more doctors and nurses infected themselves, so every region of the state has had a dramatic uptick in the infection rate. It goes back to Memorial Day. The bed space is not the problem yet. It’s the staffing. We’re just having a lot of our doctors and nurses taken out of the fight because of the disease, so what am I gonna do in phase four? I’m gonna try to find ways to make sure that the PPE equipment problem stays solved. Right now we’re okay, but they’re having to go to Mexico and China to get the gloves and the masks, and the gowns. I’ve got legislation that would treat PPE equipment the same as military uniforms. They have to be made in America and create a tax credit to reopen plants to make PPE in America so you’re not dependent on China. If we’ve learned one thing from this pandemic, we need to break our dependency on China. When it comes to hospitals, they need more funding for Medicare and Medicaid. They need more testing. So the more testing capability we can generate, the quicker we can go back to school and take a load off the hospitals. But the one thing I got from the hospitals, more than the need for money, was to beg me and others in public life to reinforce to the public that if you wear a mask, wash your hands, and social distance, you’ll be doing our hospitals, doctors, and nurses a great service. That we can do, that we must do.
Brad Means: You mentioned the stimulus package in our first segment. Is everybody about to get another check?
Sen. Lindsey Graham: I think some people will. You know, we got a debt problem, but we’re gonna have to really, quite frankly, go big. I want to do infrastructure. We’ve got roads and bridges and ports that need a facelift for America. It would help start the economy. Interest rates are pretty low, so I want an infrastructure package. I’d like to give a check to senior citizens, people on Social Security, who are gonna be stuck in their houses longer than the rest of us, simply because they’re the most vulnerable. I’d like to give a bonus, if we could, to our doctors and nurses, and middle income nurses for sure who’ve been in the brunt of the fight. I want a payroll tax cut, holiday. If you’re out there working, you would get a 6.2% cut, your tax cut. We’ll try to fix Social Security down the road, but a payroll tax cut would put money in people’s pockets. I’d like to do some things to help the unemployed, but we can’t pay people more to be unemployed than they were working, so I want to keep helping the unemployed, but I don’t want to pay people more unemployment benefits than they made at their job, so there’s several things we’ve gotta do in this package.
Brad Means: Why are you gonna let Robert Mueller testify before your judiciary committee? The Democrats wanted it and you’re saying yes. I thought you were done with him.
Sen. Lindsey Graham: Well, I thought I was done with him too until he wrote the op-ed piece about Roger Stone. If Robert Mueller is capable of writing a op-ed piece criticizing President Trump’s decision to commute Roger Stone’s sentence, then he’s capable enough to come in before the committee, and the Horowitz Report, the Inspector General’s report, about FISA abuse and how corrupt Crossfire Hurricane was as an FBI operation, came out after Mueller testified, so I’ve got a lot of questions for Robert Mueller. He wants to interject himself back into the process, he will be asked to come to the committee. We’re gonna call Comey and McCabe, and I’m gonna ask them questions about this operation. The FISA court reviewed the Department of Justice and the FBI in a very strong way. General Flynn was recommended to be dropped from Crossfire Hurricane on January the 4th, but they continued to investigate him after that. I want to know why. The Russian sub-source who provided all the information for the Steele dossier, that was the key document to get a warrant against Carter Page, I want to know why the FBI continued to use that document after it was clear in January it was a bunch of garbage. So I’ve got a lot of questions and we’re gonna, over time, answer those questions.
Brad Means: Do you think a poor showing by Mueller in the Senate could boost you all’s chances in a few months?
Sen. Lindsey Graham: I’m not looking at it that way. I’m thinking that Robert Mueller needs to stand behind his investigation and answer hard questions he hasn’t had to answer yet. I supported Mueller being able to do his job without political interference, so I supported legislation saying you can’t fire a special counsel unless you have cause. I wanted Mueller to look at this ’cause I thought it was important to look at the allegation against the Trump campaign. Well, we’ve looked and there’s no there there. Now it’s important to find out how the Crossfire Hurricane investigation became so corrupt. How is it that they continued to look at General Flynn when the people in the field said you oughta drop the case? How was it that they could abuse the FISA system to the point that the court reviewed the Department of Justice and the FBI? My goal is to hold people accountable, but also to make sure this never happens again.
Brad Means: Senator Graham, President Trump often refers to this silent majority, this group of voters who kinda lays low out there, and that’ll put you all over the top for another term each. What do you have to say about that? Do you believe that there is a group of voters out there that doesn’t like to answer the phone, that doesn’t like to take part in polls, but that is gonna turn out in November and give you all a win?
Sen. Lindsey Graham: Look, to some extent, but I’m not relying upon that. I think it’s real that there is a pent-up demand and frustration in America, and that people are reluctant to come forward ’cause you get beat up so badly if you say you’re for Trump. But I think what’s gonna happen is that we, we’re gonna have three debates. We’re gonna have two political conventions, and the choice is gonna become more obvious. We’re in the summer now. Trump gets blamed for everything. He can be a handful, he can be his own worst enemy at times, but generally speaking, I think what he’s done for the military was a godsend. I think the economy was going well before the virus, and I think rebuilding the economy is best had by Trump, not Biden. I like Joe Biden, but he’s on the wrong side of a lot of issues. If you’re out there raising a family in Georgia and South Carolina, and you’re going to work every day, if you’re worrying about the safety of your community, defunding the police is a crazy idea. If you want your children to be proud of the country, the country needs to change, but we shouldn’t apologize for being the greatest nation on Earth. If you’re looking to keep your healthcare at work, the choice will be easy. The Democratic party is in the hands of the most radical people in modern American history. Joe Biden is more of a figurehead than he is a leader. I think the choices on the issues that matter the most will be the reason that we win.
Brad Means: Is Senator Biden okay, Vice President Biden? Is he okay health-wise? You know him, you’ve known him a long time. He came down and he spoke at Strom Thurmond’s funeral. Is he all right?
Sen. Lindsey Graham: Yeah, I have no reason to believe he’s not. I mean, you know, I like Joe, but let’s just put it this way. Joe Biden is on the wrong side of most issues that matter to the country. I think most people like their healthcare at work and would not want to lose it. Medicare for All throws you– Takes your employer-sponsored healthcare away. I think most people want to fix a broken immigration system, but giving free healthcare to illegal immigrants is a crazy idea, and Joe is being more and more appeasing to the Bernie Sanders crowd because if he’s not, they’re not gonna vote for him. So Joe has got a real problem. The Joe Biden that I’ve known for the last 20 years, who’s a decent man, cannot survive in the Democratic party unless he toes the line of the hard left, and Donald Trump is his own man, for better or for worse, but I think most people believe that Donald Trump is doing what he thinks is right, and the Republican party’s not controlling him.
Brad Means: Maybe one more question, Senator Graham. Do you think we’ll get to go to the polls in person in November? If we do not, do you trust any other system, mail in especially?
Sen. Lindsey Graham: Well, I think we’ll leave it up to each state, but there’ll be more absentee ballot opportunities where you can vote early in person. You stagger it out so everybody doesn’t have to show up on the same day. But I’m hopeful that come November, that we will have breakthroughs on therapies and a vaccine will be on the horizon, that we’ll be able to participate on election day like we have in the past, but the idea of having more options to vote makes sense. What I don’t want to do is mandate from the federal level mail in voting, and ballot harvesting is a really bad idea. They do that in California, where they really go door to door and hand out ballots and help people fill it out. That scares the hell out of me. So let’s let Georgia and South Carolina figure out how to vote, and I think everybody is going to stress safe voting as much as possible, and I’m optimistic we’re gonna have a turnout that you will not believe. I’ll make one prediction.
Brad Means: Mm-hmm.
Sen. Lindsey Graham: The turnout in 2020 is gonna be historic, that people are dying to have their say, and they’re gonna vote, and that will be good for the country.
Brad Means: South Carolina senior senator, Lindsey Graham. Senator, thank you so much for taking this time with us today. We appreciate you.
Sen. Lindsey Graham: Thanks, Brad, God bless.
Brad Means: God bless you, too.