[image-1]Following a folksy lunch of fried green tomatoes and chicken livers, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham met with members of the press to discuss Boeing, the Donald Trump administration, and American relations with Russia during a brief visit to Charleston Monday.

Gathered in the senator’s Mt. Pleasant office, Graham began the discussion by voicing his support for the reauthorization of the federal Export-Import Bank by the Trump administration. Serving as an export credit agency, helping insure foreign purchases of domestic goods, the president’s reported support for the Ex-Im Bank is great news for Boeing’s local facilities, according to Graham.

“The biggest winner in the country would be Boeing. Seven out of 10 airplanes built in Charleston, S.C., are financed by the Ex-Im Bank,” said the senator. “What does that mean? It means the chance of selling these planes goes up dramatically.”

Questioned regarding the upcoming union vote that will determine if Boeing workers will organize under the International Association of Machinists, Graham came out against union efforts in South Carolina, a state with the lowest levels of union membership in the country. Although Graham ultimately said he would leave it up to workers to determine what would best serve their interests, he voiced concerns that collective bargaining efforts would not be the best option for the state of South Carolina.

“To people who work at Boeing, you have every right to vote the way you like. I’m urging you as a senator from South Carolina to choose wisely,” Graham said. “If we destroy the business model that led Boeing to South Carolina, this plant will not be able to grow.”

Just as local workers and union representatives have joined together in rallies leading up to the vote, protesters have recently taken to gathering at Sen. Graham’s Mt. Pleasant office to stand in opposition of his support for many members of President Trump’s cabinet. Seeing what he described as the emergence of a “Tea Party on the Left,” Graham said citizens should focus their efforts less on protesting and more on “problem solving” — reaffirming his support for the new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who was challenged for being woefully unqualified for the position.

“The people who are protesting my office are very mad, and they are very upset. I think Betsy DeVos will bring a new perspective on public education that is long overdue,” the senator said. “They attack everything Trump. You have the right to have your say. You can protest all you would like, and Lindsey Graham is going to continue to be Lindsey Graham.”

While Graham spoke against the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act and called for a strengthening of the military, the senator was highly critical of President Trump’s unsubstantiated claims regarding widespread illegal voting and close relationship with Russia.

“Three to five million people voting illegally, I don’t see the evidence for that. And I’ve said in the past, when the president makes claims like that he needs to have a reason because he’s the president of the United States,” Graham said. “My advice to the president is watch what you say because if you don’t watch it, you’re going to shake confidence in your ability to lead the country.”

On the topic of alleged tampering with the 2016 presidential election, Graham spoke on his feelings regarding reported efforts by Russia to interfere with the most recent election. Graham has been a strong opponent of easing up on Russia, recently joining fellow federal lawmakers to introduce a bill that would allow the Senate to block President Trump from lifting sanctions on the nation. Graham vowed to lead the charge against Russia for the country’s recent actions, both in Europe and the United States.

“Everything Russia has done in the last couple of years warrants more sanctions, not less. It’s not enough to keep the sanctions in place that we have for their invasion of Crimea. They have done nothing to warrant sanction relief for their incursion into the Ukraine … Not only should we not waive existing sanctions for their invasion of the Ukraine, we have not done a damn thing about what they did in our backyard in the last election,” said Graham. “I am 100 percent convinced that the Russian government, through their proxies and through their actual government officials, tried to interfere in the 2016 election by hacking into, not voter systems, but the DNC and high-level operatives of the Clinton campaign with an effect to interfere in the election.”

Stay cool. Support City Paper.

City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.