Tuesday on CNN’s “At This Hour,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said Russian President Vladimir Putin was a “war criminal” who he believes “intentionally left chemical weapons in the hands of Assad.”
Partial transcript as follows:
GRAHAM: There’s no doubt in my mind, that Russia aided and abetted this attack. They did not disarm Assad of his chemical weapons. This attack was launched from an airbase where there are Russian troops present. Let the Russians know we’re not believing the lies you telling and we are never going to believe them.
BOLDUAN: You said aided and abetted, but do you have any reason to believe that the Russians knew about the chemical attack beforehand?
GRAHAM: I have every reason to believe that they intentionally left chemical weapons in the hands of Assad. It’s impossible for me to believe that Russia operates at the same air base where the chemical weapons were stored and launched from and they had no knowledge of it. They either are completely incompetent or complicit. I believe they are complicit. When Rex Tillerson says he hopes Russia breaks away from Syria and Iran, with all due respect that’s naive. Putin’s regime is aligned with Syria and Iran and the way they do business. They will never break away until the cost of doing business is too high. If you want Russia to abandon Assad, you have to create cause for Russia.
BOLDUAN: Russia senior administration officials when asked that very question, if Russia had knowledge of the chemical attack beforehand, this is all they have said, they say at this time there is no U.S. intelligence community consensus that Russia had foreknowledge of the Syrian chemical attack. You say it’s there?
GRAHAM: Well, here’s my belief. I believe the Russianss did not overlook the chemical weapons cache that exists in Syria today at that air base. That their complicit with Assad. They want him to have an upper hand. They’ve been helping him stay in power by bombing hospitals, committing war crimes themselves.
BOLDUAN: Do you think they knew that Assad was going to take that step beforehand?
GRAHAM: I don’t know. But I find it hard to believe they didn’t know he had chemical weapons. I find it hard to believe they could be on the same air base and have no knowledge of a chemical weapons cache on the base and that they would eventually launch airplanes with chemical weapons. When it comes toRussiaa, quit having your head in the sand. Putin’s a war criminal. Assad’s a war criminal. They’re birds of a feather. If you wanted to break Russia away from Assad, make them pay a heavier price than today for backing them.
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