Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said President Donald Trump was “confused” about the difference between Russia meddling in the 2016 presidential election and Russia colluding with his campaign.
Partial transcript as follows:
GRAHAM: On whether or not the Russians interfered in our election -they did. The Carter Page warrant is whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians. I haven’t seen any evidence of it but I think the president gets this confused. If you suggest that Russian-Russians meddled in 2016. He goes to the idea that well, I didn’t collude with them. You didn’t collude with the Russians or at least I haven’t seen any evidence. But Mr. President they meddled in the elections. They stole Podesta’s emails. They hacked in the DNC. It could be us next, it could be some other power, not just Russia. Harden our electoral infrastructure for 2018. Mr. President, Dan Coats is right — the red lights are blinking. Get your entire government, which is doing a lot of good work but nobody knows about it, sit down with Congress and the administration and you lead this nation to harden-hardening the 2018 election process before it’s too late. Not just from Russia but from others.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well it sounds like you’re saying after a week of, you know some conflicting statements, that you still aren’t sure the president is fully believing what his intelligence community is telling him?
GRAHAM: He says but he’s not acting. It’s not what he said. He’s changed his mind four times this week. I’m glad that he’s willing to walk things back and say he misspoke if it makes us stronger. I’d given anything if President Obama were to change his mind when it came to withdrawing troops he was told if you do this it will be a disaster. He did it anyway. President Trump at least is willing to change. But what I- I think he needs to do is lead this nation to make sure that the 2018 election is protected and he needs to be the leader of the movement not brought to the dance reluctantly. So I hope he will direct his government working with Congress to harden the 2018 election before it’s too late and if he meets with Putin.
BRENNAN: This fall he’s been invited to the White House.
GRAHAM: Well, you know.
BRENNAN: Should that happen?
GRAHAM: Well if he does show up we need to have new sanctions hanging over Putin’s head.
BRENNAN: What do those look like?
GRAHAM: Well you need to get with Rubio and Van Hollen and myself and others and come up with a set of sanctions that would be a hammer over Russia’s head if they continue to interfere in the 2018 election-
BRENNAN: Are they?
GRAHAM: They are. Just have sanctions that can fall on Russia like a hammer. Do not meet with this guy from a position of weakness. You need to do two things you need to harden our electoral infrastructure. You need to be the leader of that movement and you need to work with Congress to come up with new sanctions because Putin’s not getting the message. You’ve been tougher than Obama. I’ll give you credit for that Mr. President, but it’s not working. If you were really tough with Putin he would not be doing what he’s doing. So being tougher than Obama doesn’t get me to where I want to go. I want this man to stay out of our elections and quit disrupting the world. We need new sanctions. Heavy handed sanctions hanging over his head. Then meet with him.
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