Transcript: Sens. McCaskill, Graham on 'FNS'

The following is a rush transcript of the April 19, 2009, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: Joining us now, two of the leading voices in the Senate, both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, from St. Louis, Democrat Claire McCaskill, one of the president's key congressional allies, and from Greenville, South Carolina, Republican Lindsey Graham.

Well, you both just heard General Hayden.

Senator McCaskill, when five current or former — or current or present — let me try again. When five current or former CIA directors all oppose the release of these documents and the details contained within them, and suggest that it may actually harm national security, why do it?

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL, D-MO.: Well, I think transparency is not something that comes easily to CIA directors. But it's very important to this president. And this has been a dark chapter. We had lawyers in our government that were approving illegal activity.

And I think what the president has decided — that in the long run, clearing the air and saying to the rest of the world that we're going to return to a place where setting a better example as to what democracy and the rule of law means.

WALLACE: Senator Graham, you fought against some of these enhanced interrogation techniques, especially waterboarding. Do you think it was wise to make all this information public?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: No, but I do believe we have changed our behavior as a nation. The law now is very clear. It's not the "shocks the conscience" test. The Military Commissions Act codified the new War Crimes Act, which clearly outlaws waterboarding.

I'm concerned that these memos are going to chill receiving input in the future by a president and has overly informed our enemies of the things that may await them, but the idea of waterboarding being legal is certainly not the case anymore, and I always thought it was a procedure that would come back to haunt the nation. And quite frankly, it has.

WALLACE: Senator Graham, what do you think of the transparency argument, the openness argument, that Senator McCaskill just made?

GRAHAM: I don't care to be transparent and open to Al Qaeda. The one thing you want to do in a war is to keep the enemy off their timing.

And to release the Army Field Manual, which is online, and to say, "That's the only interrogation technique available to the United States, here it is, go learn about it," is a mistake.

Releasing these memos, where some techniques I do believe are Geneva Convention compliant, do not violate the War Crimes Act — and showing the outer limits is a huge tactical and strategic mistake done for political reasons and has hurt our nation's ability to defend herself.

WALLACE: Senator McCaskill?

MCCASKILL: You know, I've got to say that I do think that our enemies — the Taliban and Al Qaeda — knew that we were torturing, and it was a great recruitment tool for those who want to do harm to our country.

We have removed that recruitment tool, and this president has shown his commitment to going after the enemy by what he is doing in Afghanistan right now.

Even though some on the left of our party are chewing on him pretty good, he has said very clearly we will continue our commitment to fight terrorism and to root out those people around the world that want to do America harm.

People should relax. This isn't a president who's going to back down from a fight if someone's trying to hurt America.

WALLACE: Senator McCaskill, members of Congress are now talking about more investigations, a possible truth commission, even the prosecution of top Bush administration policymakers who authorized the interrogations.

What do you think should happen? What do you think will happen?

MCCASKILL: Well, this morning you're talking to a couple of former prosecutors, and so I will say this. I think it's the right decision that the attorney general has said no one — no agent of the CIA should be held to any kind of legal, criminal standard as a result of taking this legal advice.

They should be able to rely on the advice they get from the government's lawyers, and there should be no prosecution or any further action there.

On the other hand, the lawyers that gave this advice — what's scary to me, Chris, is one of them got a lifetime appointment on the federal bench. Yikes — you know, a lawyer that's responsible for this kind of advice that clearly went too far in terms of stretching what our law is. It worries me that he's sitting on the federal bench right now.

Now, whether we should go down the road — I don't think we want to look in the rearview mirror. I think this president has made that very clear. We've got big problems ahead of us we need to focus on.

But I do think there probably needs to be more questions asked of the lawyers who gave this advice.

WALLACE: Let me just ask you one specific question there, and then I'll bring in Senator Graham. Would you favor the impeachment of Judge Bybee?

MCCASKILL: I don't know. I think we have to look at it. But I think we do need to sort out, you know, how do you get lawyers at the top levels of the Justice Department that could give this kind of advice.

WALLACE: Senator Graham, what do you think's going to happen? What do you think should happen?

GRAHAM: Well, I agree with Claire that the agents involved should be left alone. They were following procedures and policies approved by higher-ups and they were doing their job as they were told to do their job.

The idea of criminalizing legal advice after one administration is out of the office is a very bad precedent. You can argue many different aspects of the law and how to interpret it.

We've cleaned up this mess by passing the McCain amendment and changing the war crimes statute to put people on notice now as to what you can do. I think it would be disaster to go back and try to prosecute a lawyer for giving legal advice that you disagreed with to a former president.

WALLACE: Let me turn, if I can, to the president's meeting with Latin American leaders that's going on this weekend. And one of the main subjects that has been mentioned, as I discussed with General Hayden, has been the possible improvement of relations with Cuba.

As I mentioned, Raul Castro, the Cuban president, talked about discussing human rights, but we have to point out — and this hasn't been widely reported — it was in the context of a long anti-U.S. diatribe.

Senator Graham, how should we proceed with Cuba?

GRAHAM: "Release the prisoners and we'll talk to you."

WALLACE: Simple as that. Put up or shut up.

GRAHAM: Put up or shut up.

WALLACE: Senator McCaskill?

MCCASKILL: Well, I think we're taking the right steps, and I think the ball is now clearly in Cuba's court. They need to respond and say what they're willing to do. I agree with the sentiments expressed by Lindsey. I must also say that opening up the market of Cuba to Missouri's farmers is very important to this United States senator. I think we have markets there that our agricultural economy in this country needs, and I think we need to look at that as a long-term goal.

But there clearly needs to be more done on the part of Cuba to send the right signal to America that they're willing to engage as a — as a trade partner or to go any further down this line of normalizing our relationship.

WALLACE: As President Obama has traveled the world the last couple of weeks, he has spent a lot of time apologizing for previous action by U.S. presidents and administrations. Let's take a look at that.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There have been times where America's shown arrogance and been dismissive.



OBAMA: A demand for these drugs in the United States is what is helping to keep these cartels in business.



OBAMA: We've at times been disengaged, and at times we've sought to dictate our terms. But I pledge to you that we seek an equal partnership.


WALLACE: Senator Graham, is this reaching out to other countries constructive or is it just pandering?

GRAHAM: Well, I tell you, the fruits of this effort will determine how successful it is. It doesn't set well with me, but he is now my president. The key is can he rally the world to stop the Iranians from producing nuclear weapons.

Can he rally the world to do something about a North Korea missile program that is moving forward? Can he rally the world to impose sanctions on North Korea after they kick out the weapons inspectors?

If talking poorly about the past in the United States can do that, good. I don't believe it will. We're looking now for action, not just rhetoric, not political rhetoric.

He has a chance and an opportunity and a requirement to do something about Iran and North Korea by getting the world involved, China and Russia particularly. We'll see if he's able to perform that task.

WALLACE: Senator McCaskill...

GRAHAM: That is his job now.

WALLACE: Senator McCaskill, constructive or pandering?

MCCASKILL: Constructive. History has shown many, many times that diplomacy works. And it's not rhetoric. It's diplomacy. And we have been arrogant sometimes.

I think this is a pragmatic president. He's going to be tough and firm with our enemies, but he also is going to do what's necessary to reestablish our position in the world as a leading country to be admired and to be joined in these challenges we face, whether it's North Korea or Iran.

And I know the president shares my view and Lindsey Graham's view that nuclear weapons in Iran is a non-starter, and that we must do something about North Korea and the missile launch that they did.

But having said that, I think the approach he's taking is pragmatic, but it's very smart, and I think it will bear the kind of fruit that will make America safer.

WALLACE: Senators, we've got about two minutes left, and I want to ask you each one question about the tea parties this week. On tax day, thousands of people held tea parties across the country to protest taxes and big government.

Senator McCaskill, you're now on Twitter, and you sent this Twitter. Let's put it up. "The tea party thing confuses me. We've just passed one of the biggest tax cuts in American history and we had a record turnout in November."

Senator, are you saying there was no reason to protest?

MCCASKILL: No, I respect the protests that occurred. I think they were grassroots. I think it was a remarkable turnout in many places in our country.

I did want to point out that this wasn't a tax increase that had gone into effect — in fact, we just passed a huge tax cut — and that we had great representation in our elections last November.

But I think we've got to do more. We've got to cut spending. And I'm glad the president — for his first formal cabinet meeting on Monday, what he is going to say to all of his cabinet heads is, "Figure out where we can find spending. Let's find wasteful programs and let's start cutting spending."

This former auditor — that's like music to my ears. I think we've got a lot of work to do on the spending side.

WALLACE: Senator Graham, a final question for you. The Congressional Budget Office says that the federal income tax burden is near its historic low. Former Congressman Dick Armey, who was one of the central organizers of these rallies, says right now the federal income tax rate is at a good level. Why protest?

GRAHAM: If you're looking at what we're doing in Washington and you're not upset, the problem is with you, not the protesters. The Obama budget triples the national debt. In 2019, we'll pay more interest on the national debt than the Defense Department.

He raises taxes on job creators. He cuts the defense budget dramatically over a 10-year period. This is a budget that's a nightmare for the country. The stimulus bill and the omnibus bill together have spent more money in 90 days than we did in Iraq, Afghanistan and Katrina combined.

People need to be upset. This is a complete, absolute abandonment of fiscal discipline, and the Obama budget is a road map for disaster that will bankrupt this country. I am glad people took to the streets. There's nothing wrong with you. The problem's wrong in Washington.

This is not the change people were hoping for. This is unbelievable growth in government at a time we can afford it the least.

WALLACE: Senator Graham, Senator McCaskill — obviously strong views there — thank you both. Thanks for coming on today. Please come back, both of you.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

MCCASKILL: Thank you.

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