Transcript: Lindsey Graham on "Face the Nation," February 9, 2020

Graham "not sure" if Giuliani is getting "played" by Russia

The following is a transcript of an interview with Sen. Lindsey Graham that aired Sunday, February 9, 2020, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lindsey Graham. Senator, good morning to you. 

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Good morning. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: The president's up. He's watching, apparently, because he sent out a tweet this morning about you appearing on this program. He said, "DeFace the nation will tell Lindsey Graham they must start up the Judiciary and not stop." I'm not exactly sure quite what that means, but it sounds like he's giving you marching orders.

SEN. GRAHAM: I think what he's talking about is oversight of the FISA warrant system that failed. I can promise the president and your viewers that I'm going to call witnesses about--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Foreign surveillance warrants-- 

SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah. The Horowitz report. You know, McCabe, Comey, Rosenstein, Yates. How did you miss it so badly? How could you issue four warrants against an American citizen based on information that was unreliable? But here's what I want to tell the president. I'm not gonna be the Republican Christopher Steele. So Rudy Giuliani last night said he's got the goods on Hunter Biden. I called the attorney general this morning and Richard Burr, the chairman of the Intel Committee, and they told me take very cautiously anything coming out of the Ukraine against anybody. So what I will do is I will get to the bottom of how the FISA warrant system failed and make sure we reform it, doesn't happen again. I think questions about the conflict of interest regarding Hunter Biden in the Ukraine need to be asked. The State Department had warnings and they ignored the conflict of interest. The whistle blower episode needs to be investigated by Richard Burr. But if Rudy Giuliani has any information coming out of the Ukraine, he needs to turn over the Department of Justice because it could be Russian propaganda.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You last time you're on this program now in December, you said Giuliani should come to the Judiciary Committee with what he said was a suitcase full of documents he picked up in Ukraine on the Bidens. Are you saying you don't want any part of this anymore?

SEN. GRAHAM: After talking to the attorney general and the intelligence chairman that any documents coming out of the Ukraine against any American, Republican or Democrat, need to be looked at by the intelligence services, who has expertise I don't because Russia is playing us all like a fiddle. And Christopher Steele was played by the Russians that started the Russian investigation against President Trump. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. 

SEN. GRAHAM: It was all garbage.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you saying Rudy Giuliani--

SEN. GRAHAM: I don't want to do the same thing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --Rudy Giuliani is getting played by the Russians?  

SEN. GRAHAM:  I don't know. I'm saying that the attorney--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well it sounds like that's what you're suggesting.

SEN. GRAHAM: I'm saying that anybody who's got any information coming from the Ukraine needs to turn it over to the intelligence community. As to Senator Schumer warning Parnas and the audience, if you don't understand--

MARGARET BRENNAN: This is one of Rudy Giuliani's business associates.

SEN. GRAHAM: Yes, crooked as snake--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --who's been indicted.

SEN. GRAHAM: --facing indictment. So Schiff gets called by Russian hoaxster. I've got photos of President Trump in a compromised situation. To every American politician, you should be very cautious about receiving information coming out of the Ukraine--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

SEN. GRAHAM: --and other countries that may be backed by Russian misinformation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Does the president know that? Because he--

SEN. GRAHAM:  I hope so. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: --apparently has continued to--

SEN. GRAHAM:  Well, if he's watching the show, here's what I would tell the president. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: --believe that Ukraine had a role here. 

SEN. GRAHAM: I'm going to get to the bottom of the FISA work process because it was an abuse of power of the Department of Justice, the FBI. And we're to make sure that Hunter Biden's conflict of interest is explored because it's legitimate. How could Joe Biden really fight corruption when his son sitting on the Burisma board?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Can you clarify? You said you talked to Attorney General Barr--

SEN. GRAHAM: This morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --this morning. Has the Department of Justice been ordered to investigate the Bidens?

SEN. GRAHAM: No. The Department of Justice is receiving information coming out of the Ukraine from Rudy--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Already?

SEN. GRAHAM: --to see. He told me that they've created a process that Rudy could give information and they would see if it's verified. Rudy Giuliani is a well known man. He's a crime fighter. He's loyal to the president. He's a good lawyer. But what I'm trying to say- to the president and anybody else, that the Russians are still up to it. Deterrence is not working. So let's look at Hunter Biden's conflict. Let's look at Joe Biden. Vice President Biden, what did you do when they told you your son was on Burisma's board? It undercuts your ability to fight corruption. Did you take it seriously? Obviously he didn't. But when it comes to documents coming out of the Ukraine, to Republicans and Democrats, be very cautious turning--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But the--

SEN. GRAHAM: --anything over you got over to the intel community.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Have you ever said to the president when he repeats things like the idea that there's the DNC server- server hidden in Ukraine, that this is Russian propaganda that he is repeating and apparently believing? 

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, I'll--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Have you ever said that directly to him?

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, I don't have any information about the server being in the Ukraine.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you just said--

SEN. GRAHAM: It was the Russians—

MARGARET BRENNAN: --things coming out of Ukraine should be looked at with high scrutiny--

SEN. GRAHAM: Here's my point--

MARGARET BRENNAN:-- because of Russian interference. 

SEN. GRAHAM: --my point. It was the Russians who hacked into the DNC, not the Ukrainians. But there are people in the Ukraine that were pulling against Trump because they hated Manafort. To suggest there was no political interference coming out of the Ukraine directed toward the president, I think would be- would not withstand scrutiny. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: When- you have a role as chairman of Senate Judiciary to have oversight--

SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: --of justice department. 

SEN. GRAHAM: I'm not in charge of the whole government. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But- I understand that. However, when you're talking about being asked to do these things in a channel being open between Rudy Giuliani and the Justice Department, this sounds a lot like this is in some ways a taxpayer funded oppo-research operation against Joe Biden. Isn't this exactly what was at the heart of the impeachment probe to begin with? 

SEN. GRAHAM: No, not at all. There are plenty of people being contacted by folks from the Ukraine. Adam Schiff got contacted by somebody thought to be a Russian and he was willing to get on a plane apparently and go find the documents. Schumer believes that Parnas has got the goods. Parnas says I'm in on it. I've never met Parnas. So Democrats are being played and I'm not going to be played. So we're going to look at the Hunter Biden, Joe Biden connection to the Ukraine. We're going to ask the State Department, why didn't you do something about the conflict of interest. When the- John Kerry's chief of staff was warned about Hunter Biden's conflict on Burisma, what did you do, if anything? That's all legitimate. Rudy says he's got the goods. All I can tell Rudy and anybody else, if you got some information connected to the Ukraine against anybody, go to the Intel Committee. Not me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You- you don't want a part of it right now. We need to finish this conversation--

SEN. GRAHAM: OK. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: --because you brought up a number of things. So we're going to have to take a quick break. I do want to- to- to say, though, that to this point, nothing has been in any way substantiated in regard to corruption when it comes to Joe Biden himself. His son served on the board and was paid for it.

SEN. GRAHAM: I just think the media is so in the tank over this issue--

MARGARET BRENNAN: No but--

SEN. GRAHAM: It makes me sick to my stomach. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You just said--

SEN. GRAHAM: We'll talk about it in a minute. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right but you were saying it needs to be investigated--

SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah nobody's investigating it. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You're acknowledging there's no proof of it--

SEN. GRAHAM: CBS hasn't sent- sent one reporter. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: To Ukraine? Yes we did. 

SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah. I don't think you take it seriously.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We are, so we're taking a break and come back to talk to you about it--

SEN. GRAHAM: Good. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: --on the other side of it. So stay with us, all of you. 

SEN. GRAHAM: Good. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Graham is going to stay with us. We'll continue in a few moments.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. We continue our conversation now with South Carolina Republican Senator, Lindsey Graham. Senator, we were talking about the president's tweet this morning, the requests that have been made of you in terms of continuing investigations. This morning on Fox, Rudy Giuliani is continuing to say, quote, you are telling him, "Not my job. Not my job, man" when it comes to information he says he's handing over. You were just saying that any information coming out of Ukraine needs to be dealt with carefully and skeptically because it's likely the product of some kind of--

SEN. GRAHAM: It- it--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --Russian intelligence operation.

SEN. GRAHAM: Have we learned anything from Christopher Steele dossier? It was all a bunch of garbage fed to Christopher Steele to go after Trump. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that's what you think Rudy Giuliani--

SEN. GRAHAM: And I'm telling Schumer--

MARGARET  BRENNAN:  --is delivering? Garbage?

SEN. GRAHAM: I don't know. I'm telling Schumer, don't vouch for Parnas.

MARGARET  BRENNAN: OK.

SEN. GRAHAM: Don't put him in the gallery. I'm telling Rudy, you think you got the goods? Don't give it to me, because what do we know? We know that the Russian disinformation campaign was used against President Trump. They hacked into the DNC system. Not the Ukrainians, and they're on the ground all over the world trying to affect democracy all over the world.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Who's paying Rudy Giuliani? 

SEN. GRAHAM: I don't know. Here's my message to Rudy: If you've got something coming from the Ukraine, turn it over to the intelligence people, the Department of Justice, to any Democrat. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Got it.

SEN. GRAHAM: You think Parnas has got something on me? Well, then go to the Department of Justice and the Intel Committee. Do not pass this stuff on.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK. I want to ask you as well, because you have served in the U.S. Air Force. You are a military lawyer, a JAG. Do you support President Trump's decision to dismiss Alex Vindman, the lieutenant colonel who was serving on the National Security Council, who was compelled by a subpoena to go under oath and testify against the president?

SEN. GRAHAM: I think his reassignment was justified. I don't think he could be effective at the NSC. As much as I support our military people telling the truth when asked, it''s important they do, what have I learned in the last two years? CIA agents, Department of State, Department of Justice lawyers, FBI agents have a political agenda and they acted on it. And we found that out through the FISA investigation. As to Colonel Vindman, who was not allowed to be asked questions about his connection to the alleged whistleblower, to people working on Schiff's--

MARGARET BRENNAN: He was asked, and he denied having any--

SEN. GRAHAM: No, he was not.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well--

SEN. GRAHAM: They did not allow him 

MARGARET BRENNAN: --he was asked during the testimony. 

SEN. GRAHAM: They did not allow the Republicans to go down that road. Two things--

MARGARET BRENNAN: His brother was also marched out of the White House--

SEN. GRAHAM: All I can say is--

MARGARET BRENNAN: His brother also serves in military--

SEN. GRAHAM: Right. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: And had no connection--

SEN. GRAHAM: He has no- he has no right--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --to this impeachment. 

SEN. GRAHAM: Nobody knows this. I can promise you this. He's never been asked questions did you leak to the whistleblower people in his chain of command have been suspicious of him regarding his political point of view?

MARGARET BRENNAN: The national security adviser to the president sat in the chair you're sitting in last week and said he was confident that there were no leaks from the National Security Council.

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, I am not. I want the man to be asked about what he did with the information. I appreciate his service, but there are FBI agents who took the law in their own hands. There are CIA agents who took the law in their own hands. There are Department of Justice lawyers who lied to the court. There has been a movement since President Trump was elected by people in our government--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is this retaliation--

SEN. GRAHAM: --to take him down.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --because the president has tweeted, basically saying that Vindman was forced out, not because of--

SEN. GRAHAM: He is--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --any kind of policy issue, not because of anything else except for--

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, MARGARET, we're going to get--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --what he said was listening in on his phone calls and giving--  

SEN. GRAHAM: We're not going to be intimidated in- against asking--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But doesn't this--

SEN. GRAHAM: --asking questions to the whistleblower. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Somebody-- 

SEN. GRAHAM: Who is the whistleblower? 

MARGARET BRENNAN: He is an officer, and he is not allowed to speak out on his own behalf. Neither are his fellow military officers allowed--

SEN. GRAHAM: He was shut down.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --to do so.

SEN. GRAHAM: I don't know what role he played with the whistleblower, if any, but we're going to look. I like Joe Biden. He's a fine man, but we're not gonna give you a pass because you're--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Should Gordon Sondland have been fired as well?

SEN. GRAHAM: He's a political appointee. He serves at the pleasure of the president. He came before the country--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Of course-- 

SEN. GRAHAM: under oath--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --but it was retaliation.

SEN. GRAHAM: Gave- gave the story as- as he said it. We're not gonna live in a world where the Department of Justice, the CIA and the FBI can cut corners, go after Trump, and nobody gives a damn. As to Colonel Vindman, thank you for your service. But I'm going to- hopefully somebody will ask questions of you about the role you play with the whistleblower, if any. And if there's nothing there, fine.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Senator Graham. Thank you--

SEN. GRAHAM: Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --for joining us this morning. When we come back, a rare interview with the Chinese ambassador to the U.S. We'll ask him about the Coronavirus.