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CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" - Transcript: Al-Qaeda Planning Attack


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CROWLEY: Right. But probably, they discussed it. Thanks so much, Jim Acosta. Becky Anderson, Abu Dhabi, Barbara Starr. I hope you will both and all stick with us.

We want to move on now to republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Senator, first, as you watch this unfold, what does it -- what is your general impression here? This looks -- if you're an ordinary American, looks pretty scary.

GRAHAM: Well, I had a briefing with the vice president. It is scary. Al Qaeda's on the rise in this part of the world. And, the NSA program is proving its worth yet again. But we need to reevaluate where we're at in light of these threats. Sequestration has to be fixed. If this happens a year from now, intelligence community and military will be less capable.

AFRICOM needs to be beefed up. That's where the war is going. We're about to withdraw from Afghanistan. I don't want Afghanistan to become Iraq where we withdraw all of our troops and terrorism comes back. You know, western Afghanistan is the safe haven for al Qaeda. So, I appreciate what the administration is doing.

They're taking the right approach to this. Benghazi was a complete failure. The threats were real there. The reporting was real. And we basically dropped the ball. We've learned from Benghazi, thank God, and the administration is doing this right.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you, when you look at this map of U.S. embassies that are closed or consulates or missions, 22 of them, most of them across the Muslim world, when you hear this global warning to all Americans to take care, what do you think that says since the mission of a terrorist is to terrorize. In some sense, do you feel like they've already won? This is kind of a balance, isn't it?

GRAHAM: Well, it is a balance. Shutting down embassies makes sense going out of this. The goal is to drive us out in Mid East. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al Qaeda in Iraq, al Nusra, all of them have one thing in common, they want to drive the west out of the Mid East and take over this Muslim countries and create an al Qaeda tight religious entity in the place of what it says today.

So, this is an effort to terrorize us, to drive us out of the Mid East. And if we ever take the bait and try to come home and create fortress America, we'll have another 9/11. So, we have to show resolve, but we have to be smart. I'm going to Egypt with Senator McCain very soon here. I know it's dangerous, but we need to be there with our diplomats giving the unified message to Egypt.

Do not let these people drive us out of the Mid East. Do not make us abandon our friends like now Yemen, Israel, the king of (ph) Jordan. We can't let them get away with this. We have to stand up to them. And finally, after Benghazi, they're on steroids. They attacked our consulate. They killed an ambassador.

A year has passed, and nobody's paid a price. After Benghazi, these al Qaeda-types are really on steroids, thinking we're weaker and they're stronger.

CROWLEY: Senator, I want to talk to you about the Egyptian trip and some other things after the break. But quickly, when are you leaving for Egypt?

GRAHAM: Very soon. And to the members of Congress who want to reform the NSA program, great. But if you want to gut it, you make us much less safe, and you're putting our nation at risk. We need to have policies in place that can deal with the threats that exist, and they are real, and they are growing.

CROWLEY: OK. We're going to talk to you right after this break.


CROWLEY: We're back with the Republican senator, Lindsey Graham. Senator, we have this global worldwide alert to Americans to stay safe and watch how they travel and watch where they go. We have all these embassies closed down, including the one in Egypt. And you and Senator McCain are going there.

So, I want to know if there's any extra precautions being taken. It just seems like kind of a dual message here.

GRAHAM: Well, I hope they are. And if you're going to pick between the two of us, Senator McCain is far more valuable than I am. But, we've got a call from the president, Secretary Kerry, the message that the Egyptian military and the Muslim Brotherhood is to get out of the streets, back into the voting booth.

The Egyptian military must move more aggressively toward turning over control to the civilian population, civilian organizations. The military can't keep running the country. We need Democratic elections. The brotherhood needs to get off the streets and back into the political arena and fight your differences there, and we need to put Egypt back to work. If this continues, it's going to be a failed state. That's why we're going.

CROWLEY: Well, senator, as you know, the brotherhood can't get back to the voting booth until elections are called, which haven't happened.

GRAHAM: Right.

CROWLEY: The U.S. has been working its military connections very, very hard.

GRAHAM: Right.

CROWLEY: Trying to use the leverage of U.S. aid saying you need to set up elections. You need to stop attacking these protesters. And I want to read you something that General Abdel-Fatal al-Sisi said, he's the Egyptian defense minister, he's the commander of the armed forces. He did an interview, I believe it was with "The Washington Post." And, he had this to say about the U.S. "You left the Egyptians. You turned your back on the Egyptians, and they won't forget that." He is talking about the fact the Egyptians didn't like the Morsy government, and you did nothing to try to correct the direction of the Morsy government. So, this does not sound like the group that is listening to any leverage the U.S. perceives it has with them.

GRAHAM: Well, he'd better start listening if he wants this relationship. The relationship between the United States and Egypt is very important to us. It's the center of the Arab world in general.

CROWLEY: It doesn't seem like it's that important to them, though.

GRAHAM: Well, it's important to people around in the streets demanding, you know, a better life to the general. Democracy is messy. The Morsy government did screw up big time. They went down the Islamic cultural road rather than creating jobs, and the military had to intervene. The one thing that's not sustainable is a military takeover of Egypt.

They promised new elections. They need to deliver. The Muslim Brotherhood needs to get off the streets so the economy can start anew and reorganize and have a political contest, not a contest to violence. I don't want to abandon Egypt. To the general, Senator McCain and myself stopped an effort to cut off aid.

I want to keep the aid flowing to Egypt, but it has to be with the understanding that Egypt's going to march toward democracy, not toward a military dictatorship. And that's the message we're going to send to the Muslim Brotherhood. The only way you're going to be part of Egypt is to allow Egypt to get back to work, stop playing politics. That's the message.

This is a key moment in the history of Egypt, but the narrative in the Mid East needs to change and it needs to change quickly. We abandoned Iraq. It's falling apart. We're talking about leaving Afghanistan. We'd better be smart enough to leave a residual force in Afghanistan to deal with the problems of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

CROWLEY: I've got no time left actually, but I can't let you go without a political question.

GRAHAM: Sure. All right.

CROWLEY: You picked up another opponent for the Republican primary. All of them are coming at you from the right and say that you are too quick to compromise with Democrats. Your quick response to that.

GRAHAM: I'm going to keep being a social and fiscal conservative that focuses on our national security, takes care of interests at home, like the port of Charleston, working with my state officials, and be a conservative like Ronald Reagan who will sit down with a Tip O'Neil to solve Americans' problems. I'm conservative, but I do want to solve problems. I'm going to Egypt because my country needs me and Senator McCain in a bipartisan fashion to speak to the Egyptian people about their future and our relationship. I will continue to be Lindsey Graham, a solid fiscal and social conservative who wants to solve problems. I think that's the future of the Republican Party.

CROWLEY: Senator Lindsey Graham, we will watch that race with great interest. Thank you so much. Safe journey.

GRAHAM: Thank you.


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