Transcript: Sen. Lindsey Graham on “Face the Nation,” June 9, 2024

The following is a transcript of an interview with Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, on “Face the Nation” that aired on June 9, 2024.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. He joins us from London. Good morning to you, Senator.


MARGARET BRENNAN: I know you were at those D-Day remembrances earlier in the week, and you met with President Zelensky as well. He has asked for more training for his forces, and for that to happen faster and inside of Ukraine. Do you support the U.S. doing that?

SEN. GRAHAM: Yes, I do support us training inside the country. You know, the delay in weapons because of House inaction, we did lose momentum. But from the very beginning, the Biden administration, they did not impose pre-invasion sanctions to deter Putin. They didn’t give weapons to Ukraine early on to deter Putin. And now we’ve got a chance to reset this war that they have the weapons. Here’s what he wanted most of all, for us to go after the Russian assets all over the world, take the money from the sovereign wealth funds of Russia and give it to Ukraine. There’s $300 billion sitting in Europe from Russian sovereign wealth, assets that we should seize and give to Ukraine. We have Russian money in America we should seize. We should make Russia a state sponsor of terrorism under U.S. law. When I suggested that to President Zelensky, he lit up like a Christmas tree. Making Russia a state sponsor of U.S.- state sponsor of terrorism under U.S. law would be a very big blow to Russia.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. I don’t know that the Biden administration would sign off on that, though, but in terms of what you just mentioned, with–

SEN. GRAHAM: They won’t.

MARGARET BRENNAN: –with the assets, President Biden did say this morning he had reached an agreement with President Macron of France on the use of profits from those frozen Russian assets to help Ukraine. I know the Europeans haven’t wanted to go ahead and seize assets because it would hurt their banks.

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, they- they want to use the interest to help people- either we’re going to help Ukraine or we’re not. It’s now time to give them the F-16s, let them fly the planes, long range artillery to hit targets inside of Russia. Go after Putin’s assets, wherever they’re at, all over the world. Go on the offensive. I think this summer, Ukraine will regain military momentum. Everything we’ve done with Ukraine has been slow. It’s been indecisive. But if we went after the assets that Putin has all over the world, take his money that’s stolen from the Russian people, and help the victims in Ukraine, I think it would do a lot to end this war.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Your Republican colleague, Senator Tommy Tuberville, just this past week, said on Steve Bannon’s show that Volodomyr Zelensky is a dictator and unconstitutional. And he said this about Vladimir Putin.


SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE (R-AL): He doesn’t want Ukraine. He doesn’t want Europe. Hell, he- he’s got enough land of his own. He just wants to make sure that he does not have United States weapons in Ukraine pointing at Moscow.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Those echo some Russian talking points. Senator, I- I wonder if those remarks from your fellow Senator represent the GOP?

SEN. GRAHAM: No, it represents him and him alone. If you spent 15 minutes studying Putin and what he wants, he wants to re- recreate the Russian Empire. He’s not going to stop in Ukraine. We celebrated the 80th anniversary of D-Day. It was a failure. It was the unnecessary war, described by Winston Churchill. We had a dozen chances to stop Hitler. It’s not about NATO. It’s not about American weapons in Ukraine. It’s about a megalomaniac wanting to create the Russian Empire by force of arms. If you don’t stop him, there goes Taiwan. So we’ve been slow as hell of helping Ukraine, but Senator Tuberville’s analysis really misses what Putin’s all about. He’s an outlier, I think, in the Republican Party. I like him personally. But what did Trump do to get the weapons flowing? He created a loan system. They’re sitting on 10 to $12 trillion of critical minerals in- in Ukraine. They could be the richest country in all of Europe. I don’t want to give that money and those assets to Putin to share with China. If we help Ukraine now, they can become the best business partner we ever dreamed of, that 10 to $12 trillion of critical mineral assets could be used by Ukraine and the West, not given to Putin and China. This is a very big deal how Ukraine ends. Let’s help them win a war we can’t afford to lose. Let’s find a solution to this war. But they’re sitting on a gold mine. To give Putin 10 or $12 trillion for critical minerals that he will share with China is ridiculous.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I- I want to get to the Middle East with you as well. Later today, Benny Gantz, one of the ministers in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s war cabinet, is expected to announce his resignation, which he has previously said would happen if he wasn’t handed a day after plan. The defense minister has also said there is no planning for the day after happening. Where is this headed?

SEN. GRAHAM: I think Mr. Gantz will withdraw from the war cabinet, but Bibi will still have a majority. I like Benny Gantz. Here’s what I found on my last trip to Israel just a few days ago. There’s universal opposition to creating a Palestinian state by all levels of Israeli society if it is seen as a reward for terrorism of October the 7. The day after plan, when Hamas is destroyed militarily, and they no longer can threaten Israel, needs to be a negotiation between Israel and Saudi Arabia and the UAE to come up with a plan for Gaza and the West Bank, to give- to give the Palestinians hope and a better life and secure Israel. That is the only plan I see working. You cannot occupy–Israel can’t, in my view–permanently, Gaza. That will be a disaster for Israel. So the hope for the day after–

MARGARET BRENNAN: But Prime Minister Netanyahu hasn’t said that clearly yet, that he would not seek to occupy–

SEN. GRAHAM: I just- he’s coming. He’s coming July the 24th. I’ve spent a lot of time with Bibi. He is right to want to make sure there will be no stop to this war until Hamas is destroyed militarily and cannot threaten another October 7. I’ve had very detailed discussions with the- with the Prime Minister and with the Crown Prince and this administration. I believe–

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to talk to you–

SEN. GRAHAM: -there will be forming in the next–

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to talk to you more about this–

SEN. GRAHAM: There- there will be a plan coming about. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, we have to talk more about this on the other side of the commercial break, though. So just give me a minute or two and we’ll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to “Face The Nation.” We return to our conversation now with South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. Senator, thank you for staying through the break for us. Before we went to it, you said, by July 24 when the Prime Minister of Israel is here in Washington to address the joint session of Congress, you do expect a plan for the day after. Do you expect, given the limited amount of time left, that there will be normalization with Saudi Arabia and Congress will be able to vote before the election?

SEN. GRAHAM: I think it’s still possible. But the administration has taken months to negotiate the defense agreement between Saudi Arabia and the United States, holding it over the- Israel’s head regarding Rafah. I think we’re almost there. One thing I got from this trip was that they still don’t have the weapons they need in Israel to finish off Hamas. So they’re going to be sending me a list of weapons that are being slow walked. So I’m going to bring that up. But yeah, I think we can still do this. July the 24th will be here before you know it, hopefully major military operations will be over against Hamas if we give Israel the weapons they need, and we can sit down and talk about a vision for Gaza and the West Bank that will give security to Israel, hope and prosperity for the Palestinian people, with Saudi Arabia and the UAE involved. So that is my hope, that is my belief, and I want to help where I can.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll see if that vote can be taken. But Sir, you just mentioned U.S. military aid. Our poll out today shows a majority of Americans, 61%, say the U.S. should not send Israel weapons. Six in 10 says Israel should stop or decrease its military actions in Gaza. Isn’t it time for this war to end now, given that the tide of public opinion is turning against Israel?

SEN. GRAHAM: I think it’d be the biggest mistake we could- I criticized Senator Tuberville for his view of Ukraine. Let me be straight with you. Hamas would kill everybody here if they could get here. Israel’s not our enemy–


SEN. GRAHAM: –they’re our ally. Well, they can’t, because they’re pinned down over there. I want them destroyed so they can never come back to hurt Israel or us. Hezbollah is alive and well. So to those Americans who believe pulling the plug on Israel now makes us safer, you missed a lot. Radical Islam wants to slit the throat of every Jewish person, and your throat too. So no, I want to give weapon- weapons they need. The administration’s withholding weapons. The- Trump was a great ally of Israel. If he wins this- this election, he’ll have another great ally. I appreciate what President Biden’s doing, but it’s all been so slow. So if you don’t- Iran, here’s the big takeaway from my trip. The IDF chief told me he’s never been more worried about a nuclear breakout regarding the Iranians than he is right now. He thinks we’ve lost deterrence. He’s asking for joint military operations with the United States to convince Iran not to dash toward a nuclear weapon. These are the most dangerous times since the ’30s. Don’t make the mistakes of the ’30s. Senator Tuberville said, give Putin what he wants. Well, that’s what we did in the ’30s. That didn’t work out. Pull the plug on Israel. That didn’t work in World War II. It’s not going to work now.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Very quickly, before I let you go, in this past year, the Biden administration deported, expelled or repatriated more than 740,000 people, which they say is more than any year since 2010. You this week said there need to be mass deportations. Aren’t those numbers mass deportations?

SEN. GRAHAM: Well look. They’ve had 10 million people coming to this country illegally. It’s the highest level of ill- illegal immigration in the last three years in the history of the country. We went from the lowest under Trump to the highest in recorded history. They’re never going to stop coming until–


SEN. GRAHAM: –they see people leaving. On day one- on day one, President Trump will deport people here legally by the tens of thousands. Then and only then will this stop, and Biden will never do that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you also know that Congress would have to provide the resources to do that to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, and they say they don’t have the manpower or the money to do any of that at that scale.

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, if- if Trump is president- if Trump is president, his top priority will- seal that border, deport here people illegally. We’re living on borrowed time when it comes to another 9/11. if you’re looking for somebody to fix a broken border and keep us safe, Donald Trump, I believe, is your best choice. And if you don’t believe that, after the last three years, you make- you’re making a big mistake.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Graham, joining us from London today. Thank you for your time, Sir.

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