National Security

Lindsey Graham on Border Wall Funding: Trump ‘Is Not Going to Walk Away from This Fight’

'Democrats have a chance to work with me and others'

Image Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), in a wide-ranging interview that included some salty language, laid out a plan to end the government shutdown with a compromise that includes tantalizing tidbits for both Democrats and Republicans.

“Basically, $5 billion for the wall, plus the Bridge Act, TPS [temporary protected status], and some legal changes to do away with some of these magnets to illegal immigration might save the day in the Senate,” the almost-certain incoming Judiciary chairman told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” on Sunday morning.

“President [Donald] Trump is not going to walk away from this fight,” said Graham. “Democrats have a chance here to work with me and others, including the president, to bring legal status to people who have very uncertain lives.”

“Nothing will get out of the Senate without wall border funding,” he added — and detailed the many occasions on which Democrats have voted for funding for the wall and other physical barriers to enhance border security in the past.

“The bottom line is [Democrats] want Trump to lose more than they want the country to win, I fear. At the end of the day, there is a deal to be had.”

“Everybody is changing their position here, and most Americans are pretty tired of it,” he added.

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The BRIDGE Act, which stands for “bar removal of individuals who dream and grow our economy,” was co-written by Sens. Graham and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). It’s a three-year, one-time renewable work permit for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) population of about 700,000 people, Graham explained.

TPS, or “Temporary Protected Status,” is a time-limited status given to people from certain countries who have been affected by wars or natural disasters — which allows them to live and work in the United States.

Graham said on Sunday morning that TPS impacts about 400,000 people who came here decades ago as a result of natural disasters and war-torn countries whose visas are about to run out.

Moving to the related matter of the recently reported deaths of two migrant children, Graham said he plans to hold hearings on the matter, including the policies that entice illegal immigrants to make the dangerous journey toward this country in the first place.

Graham also said that right now, the U.S. has 11,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America, 98 percent of whom never leave.

He proposed they be sent back to their home countries in the same way unaccompanied minors from Mexico are sent back to their home countries. He wants that specific legal change to be part of the compromise deal to end the partial government shutdown.

When matters turned to foreign policy, the interview heated up very quickly — and Graham let loose.

Graham squarely blamed former President Barack Obama for “everything we’re dealing with today.” “He [Obama] is the one who withdrew from Iraq,” said Graham.

CNN’s Bash interjected in defense of the former president, saying Obama withdrew because there was a “status of forces agreement” with Iraq.

“No. That’s a bunch of bulls***, pardon my French. That’s a complete lie,” Graham retorted, noting he was there at the time and that he himself spoke to the prime minister of Iraq about the matter.

“ISIS came about as a result of our withdrawal from Iraq,” he added. “The caliphate was established in Syria because Obama sat on the sidelines and watched the place be dismembered.”

Graham warned that ISIS is on the rise in Afghanistan.

Graham discouraged the president from “outsourcing our national security to some foreign power.”

“[Our troops are] inside the 10-yard line on defeating ISIS [in Syria], but we’re not there yet,” said Graham, who also said he planned to encourage President Trump to keep some of our troops there when he met with the president for lunch on Sunday.

“If we leave now, the Kurds are going to get slaughtered,” he warned.

Graham said that according to a call from General Joseph Dunford, the current chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, the president is reconsidering how to withdraw from Syria.

Graham discouraged the president from “outsourcing our national security to some foreign power.”

By “some foreign power,” Graham is likely referring to Saudi Arabia.

On Christmas Eve, Trump tweeted that Syria had agreed to help finance the rebuilding of Syria.

Graham further warned that if we pull out from Syria now, there will be a “land bridge from Tehran to Beirut in terms of supplying weapons against Israel.”

“I’m going to ask the president to do something President Obama would never do: reconsider,” said Graham, who wants the president to avoid a move that would essentially turn Syria over to the Iranians, creating a “nightmare” for Israel.

“I want to fight the war in the enemy’s backyard, not ours,” he said, adding he believes we can “reduce our footprint” in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, but that for now, we still need forward-deployed forces there.

“I’m generally very pleased [with President Trump’s foreign policy],” said Graham. He cited policy decisions, including pulling out of the “nightmare” Iranian agreement, increasing military spending, and changing the rules of engagement in Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria — which lead to the near-destruction of ISIS.

“He has destroyed ISIS virtually on his watch. He has put Iran on the run. He has rebuilt our military . . . and we now talk to North Korea from a position of strength.”

“All I’m asking him to do, is to make sure we don’t fumble the ball inside the ten-yard line,” said Graham, who said he fears that pulling out of Syria would undercut those achievements.

He added that he believes President Trump will reconsider his decision on Syria after sitting down with him and the generals to discuss a better strategy. (And see the tweets Graham sent after the meeting, shown below now.)

Moving to matters closer to home, Graham on Sunday morning described William Barr, President Trump’s nominee for attorney general, as a “great choice.”

He added that Barr will be tested and be required to defend his reasoning on controversial decisions as any other nominee.

Graham said that he will support the confirmation of Barr, who also served as President George H.W. Bush’s Attorney General, unless he “hears something really out of left field” during the confirmation hearings.

Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and regular contributor to LifeZette.

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