FOX "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace" Transcript: Hagel Nomination


By:  Lindsey Graham
Date: Feb. 17, 2013
Location: Unknown

WALLACE: And hello, again, from Fox News in Washington.

Senate Republicans made history this week blocking a nominee for defense secretary for the first time ever. They are demanding more information about the nominee, former Senator Chuck Hagel, and about the Benghazi terror attack.

Joining me now, one of the senators leading the charge, Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Senator, you were telling me just before we went on the air that you've just gotten some new information about Chuck Hagel. What is it?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: Well, on the day of the vote, there was a blog posting about a speech I think in 2007 or 2008 that Chuck Hagel made at Rutgers University, and the blogger was a supporter of Senator Hagel. He was thinking about running for president and he put on his blog the next day six points of the speech, question-and-answer session. And point six was allegedly Senator Hagel said that the U.S. State Department was an adjunct of the Israeli foreign minister's office, which I think would be breathtaking if he said that, had such a view.

I got a letter back from Senator Hagel, in response to my question, did you say that and do you believe that? And, the letter says he did not recall saying that. He disavowed that statement.

WALLACE: Is that enough for you?

GRAHAM: Well, if in fact that's true, that would end that matter because he previously said in a book that the Jewish lobby intimidates members of Congress, particularly the U.S. Senate and makes us -- pushes us to make very bad decisions. If the second statement were true, he said, the secretary of state's office is under the control of the Israeli foreign ministers, those two together, would show edge our view of the Israeli-U.S. relationship way out of mainstream.

So, I'll just take him at his word unless something new comes along.

WALLACE: Senate Democrats, as you know, say you are playing politics with national security.

Here's what President Obama said.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It's just unfortunate that this kind of politics intrudes at a time when I'm still presiding over a war in Afghanistan, and I need a secretary of defense who is coordinating with our allies to make sure our troops are getting the kind of strategy and mission that they deserve.


WALLACE: Even if you allow Hagel to be confirmed in a week when you come back from recess, do you worry at all, Senator, that he will be damaged and therefore less effective dealing with Congress and dealing inside the Pentagon?

GRAHAM: I would worry about a Congress being jammed, to support a nominee that the Washington Post said is to the left of the Obama administration's foreign policy agenda, is on the fringe of the senate. You are talking about a person whose voting record shows softness on Iran and antagonism toward Israel beyond belief. He'd be the most antagonistic senator toward the state of Israel in history.

So the fact that we reported (ph) him on Tuesday, and they wanted a cloture vote Thursday, to me was unreasonable. We voted Senator Kerry on the same day because there was no controversy and we offer to the White House to hold the vote until after the break, and, if there are nothing new came out, we'd all vote for cloture, Senator John McCain and myself. But that wasn't good enough and they wanted to force this issue.

So I'm glad that we have got more time to look and I'm glad he answered my question, about a very disturbing comment he allegedly made.

So I think we're doing our job to scrutinize, I think, one of the most unqualified, radical choices for secretary of defense in a very long time.

WALLACE: Well, let me ask you a question about that. If he is so radical and if he's unqualified, if you get the information you are seeking on him, and on Benghazi -- we'll get to that in a moment -- why wouldn't you still continue to try to block him?

GRAHAM: Well, because I do believe the president has great deference and here's the question for our country, can we do better than this? I think so.

The president chose the controversial nominee that refuses to sign letters supporting Israel during the 200 Fatah, refused to designate that Iranian revolutionary guard a terrorist organization, refused to sign a letter asking the E.U. to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization -- the list goes on and on and on.

But at the end of the day, this is the president's decision, I give him great discretion and I can't believe one Democratic colleague is not upset by this choice, enough to speak out.

WALLACE: Now, one of the other things you want and you are using the nomination as leverage, is to get more information about Benghazi, the president says that that's all about politics. Take a look at this.


OBAMA: We've had more testimony and more paper provided to Congress than ever before, and, Congress is sort of running out of things to ask.


WALLACE: Question: tell me the single most important thing that after all of these months you still don't know about Benghazi?

GRAHAM: Well, it's pretty hard. Let's start with after. We don't know who changed the talking points to take the references to al Qaeda, or the talking points given to Susan Rice. We don't even know who the survivors of the attack are so that Congress can interview them. How in the world could the president and Susan Rice suggest this was not a pre-planned terrorist attack when the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs testified before Congress just a week ago that they knew on the night of the attack it was a terrorist attack?

There are so many unanswered questions. The FBI interviews --


WALLACE: Senator, let me pick up on one of them I find, frankly, quite astonishing. What is the administration's explanation for the fact the FBI interviewed the survivors, all the Americans who safely got out of Benghazi, right after the attack, months ago, and that they refused to give the transcripts of the interviews to Congress. What's their explanation for that?

GRAHAM: This is an ongoing criminal investigation is what they told me. We are going back to the law enforcement model, where we're treating al Qaeda as sort of a mafia, common criminal element rather than enemy combatants.

And here's what was really stunning, the FBI interviewed the survivors, two days after the attack in Germany and, the CIA never called the FBI for weeks, wanting the results of the interview before they made their assessments -- we are going back to the pre-9/11 mentality of -- where we treat it as a law enforcement function, and FBI and the CIA never talk to each other, which is very dangerous.

Benghazi was system failure, before, during and after.

WALLACE: Senate Republicans are also talking about holding up the nomination of John Brennan, the president's chief counterterrorism adviser, to head the CIA. And, Rand Paul, your colleague, who will be on after the break, says one of the things he wants to ensure is that a president can't order a drone attack against an American citizen without a judicial review.

Is Senator Paul wrong?

GRAHAM: Well, I think the worst thing in the world is to have the courts decide who to target in the war on terrorism. Courts are not military commanders, the commander-in-chief has the right under our laws and authorization to use military force to designate the enemy. I think we need drones to patrol our borders, but I don't think he needed a drone an al Qaeda operative inside the United States.

We are using drones where there's really no soldiers, along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

But I very much believe we're at war and any American citizen who aides al Qaeda should be treated an enemy combatant, not a common criminal. We have done that in every war, and drones are just a tactical weapon in the overall war.

WALLACE: When Congress gets back from recess, the week after this one, you're going to have just five days to try to deal with the sequester, the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts that kick in on March 1st.

Now, some Republican leaders say if it comes down to a choice, between sequester, cuts, $85 billion, that are split evenly between the domestic side and military, Pentagon spending, or, the president's demand for an increase in taxes, then let the sequester happen. Are they wrong about that?

GRAHAM: Oh, I think so. I think we should have in a bipartisan fashion stop sequestration before -- in the words of the secretary of defense -- it destroys the Pentagon.

But we can cut $1.2 trillion over the next decade without destroying the Defense Department if we choose. The president promised in the campaign sequestration would not happen. Now, he is allowing it to happen. He's raising taxes to pay for half of it, and the other half comes from further defense cuts -- we already cut $489 billion -- and taking money out of the farm bill. So, when the president said at the State of the Union, we've already cut spending by $2.5 trillion, that's absolutely a misleading statement.


GRAHAM: Well, because, we haven't. We haven't done anything with sequestration yet, instead of cutting spending by $1.2 trillion. He's now suggesting we raise taxes, by $600 billion and cut the Pentagon yet again, and, go to the farm bill.

That's the only area that they are willing to cut. So we haven't cut $2.5 trillion, because, the sequestration is now going to be replaced by tax cuts, and further defense spending, and it's only 19 percent of the budget.

But, you know, sort of back to this Benghazi thing and this administration being transparent and being honest to the American people, this president can say almost anything he wants with a few notable exceptions and get away with it. We still have no idea what the president did, when secretary -- during the night of September 11th -- and when Secretary Clinton said she had a clear idea of the threats we faced in Libya, the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs said they knew that night it was a terrorist attack and knew of the reporting coming out of Libya, from Ambassador Stevens, who said we cannot defend the consulate.

She was not clear-eyed, she was blind and deaf and the president of the United States never picked up the phone to call anybody in Libya to help these poor people under attack. The first ambassador killed in 30 years.

They withheld information. I think manipulated the evidence after the attack to create a political narrative rather than sharing with the public the truth about an al Qaeda attack that was pre- planned and pre-coordinated.

We're going to get to the bottom of this.

WALLACE: Let me just ask you one more question about the sequestration before we let you go, Senator. You know that if we go into the sequester the president is going to hammer Republicans.

The White House has already put out a list of all the things, terrible things that will happen if a sequester kicks in: 70,000 children losing Head Start, 2,100 fewer food inspectors, small business will lose $900 million in loan guarantees.

And, you know, Senator, the president is going to say your party is forcing this to protect tax cuts for the wealthy.

GRAHAM: Well, all I can say is the commander-in-chief thought -- came up with the idea of sequestration, destroying the military and putting a lot of good programs at risk.

Here's my belief -- let's take Obamacare and put it on the table. You can make $86,000 a year in income and still get a government subsidy under Obamacare. Obamacare is destroying health care in this country. People are leaving the private sector because their companies cannot afford to offer Obamacare.

If you want to look at ways to find $1.2 trillion in savings over the next decade, let's look at Obamacare. Let's don't destroy the military and just cut blindly across the board. There are many ways to do this, but the president promised it won't happen.

He's the commander-in-chief and on his watch, we're going to begin to unravel the finest military in the history of the world, at a time when we need it most. The Iranians are watching us. We are allowing people to be destroyed in Syria.

So, I just really -- I'm very disappointed in or commander-in- chief.

WALLACE: Senator Graham, thank you. Thanks for joining us today. We'll be following both the sequestration and the Hagel nomination.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

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