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EXCLUSIVE: Jim DeMint Weighs in on Russia and His New Role at Convention of States

Jim DeMint has found the perfect home after being let go by the Heritage Foundation: The Convention of States Project. The former senator joined Glenn in his first post-Heritage interview and the two talked about the movement, as well as recent developments with Russia.

"So, Jim, the Convention of States, I think has new life to it. And a lot of it is coming from places like California, of all places. I think this is a real opportunity... Are you reaching out to the people on the left who are more Libertarian-minded?" Glenn asked on radio Tuesday.

DeMint confirmed the Convention of States (CoS) is beginning to see bi-partisan support.

"They understand that what we're trying to do is not tell people what to do or to tell California they have to do something and South Carolina does something else. What we're talking about is where things are decided," DeMint responded.

Supporting the Tenth Amendment and states' rights in order to limit the scope of federal power has been a key agenda item for CoS.

On the election front and Russian hacking controversy, DeMint laid the blame squarely at Obama's feet.

"Everyone in the Obama administration knew that this was a risk, and the fact that it was not addressed, that more was not done, is a gaping hole in our security," DeMint said.

Enjoy the complimentary clip, listen to the full segment or read the transcript for details.

GLENN: We were really excited when Jim DeMint went to the Heritage Foundation. Jim DeMint, if you remember right, in the day, was the only guy in the Senate. This was before we had Mike Lee. This was before we -- we had Rand Paul. This was before we had anybody. He was the lone guy back in -- in '06, '07, and '08. And then the wave election happened. And then he left. Went to the Heritage Foundation.

I hated losing him in the Senate. But he thought he could make some real difference at the Heritage Foundation. I think he did.

But they didn't like the direction. So he left. Where is he now, and what happened at the Heritage Foundation? His first interview since leaving begins right now.

(music)

GLENN: Let's go to Jim DeMint now. Jim DeMint, formerly the former senator from South Carolina, and then with the Heritage Foundation for I think four years or so and made a real impact there. Jim DeMint, welcome to the program. How are you, sir?

JIM: Glenn, I'm doing really well. And it's good to be back on your show.

GLENN: Thank you, sir. Jim, I know you're such a Southern gentleman, you're not going to want to, you know, say anything bad about anybody, and I'm not looking for the bad stuff. But can you tell us what happened at Heritage? Because there's been these stories that, you know, you were too conservative, that you were -- you were taking it too -- too conservative. I don't know what that means for the Heritage Foundation. But trying to take it too conservative. And they wanted to be more G.O.P.-centric.

JIM: Well, Glenn, frankly, I don't know. And the board just decided they wanted to do something different in the future. And, frankly, I feel like the Lord knows what he's doing. And where I am right now, realize that I'm in a place where I can make a much bigger difference. There are some great people at Heritage. But I'm ready to leave that chapter behind and get back to work on two fronts: I realize -- and I'm sure you see it from where you sit, that we can't just work in one area. It's not just enough to be a senator or elect a senator. We have to do a lot of things, if we're going to stop this out of control federal government. And the two things I need to work with conservatives on the Hill and try to equip them and support them. Because as you mentioned, when you started the show just a minute ago is, a lot of times, it's just one or two people working to try to do the right thing. And the system tries to take them apart.

But I've also realized that no matter what happens, no matter who we elect, Congress is never going to stop spending. That they're going to keep spending and creating debt, until we have some kind of crisis or meltdown. And our Founders knew that that was a possibility, that they gave us the fire alarm on the wall, to break the glass and pull the lever. And that's in Article V of the Constitution, where they've said the states could come together and propose amendments to the Constitution. In this case, we have to get the states to force the federal government to have physical restraint. To limited jurisdiction. And hopefully even to term limit members of Congress and maybe even the judiciary.

GLENN: Okay. So you're now going to the Convention of States. What role of Convention of States Project are you going to play there?

JIM: I'm what they call a senior adviser. I'll be working with Tom Coburn and a good team around the country to work with state legislators. Because the secret here is to get 34 states to pass essentially the same call to convention. This is not a constitutional convention. This is nothing about a free-for-all, to rewrite a Constitution. Article V is clear that states can propose amendments. And we want to propose particular amendments that will help force the federal government to not only balance its budget, but limit taxes. But also limit what it can do. Because the Tenth Amendment is clear, that whatever is not prescribed to the federal government in the Constitution, to be left to the states and the people. And the federal government has just run all over that.

And so I look at my fight -- I'm just fighting on two fronts. I'm not going to give up on helping conservatives. And we've started a new nonprofit to do that. But I'm working with the Convention of States, hoping that the states will call a convention to propose amendments, to limit the power and the spending of the federal government.

GLENN: So, Jim, the convention of the states, I think has new life to it. And a lot of it is coming from places like California, of all places. To where liberal are saying, you know, the government is out of control.

Yeah, because now your guy isn't in control. And California had a real movement to actually secede from the union.

I think this is a real opportunity, but it also could be used to exploit the -- the -- the framework of Article V.

Are you reaching out to the people on the left who are more Libertarian-minded, and are you concerned at all about a hijacking from the traditional left?

JIM: Glenn, that is one of the arguments that opponents of this use. But, frankly, it -- there is literally no chance that this -- you can have a chance that proposes some kind of crazy amendment, that in 38 states ratify. I feel much more comfortable in that second balance, than I do with what the courts could do in Washington, or even what Congress can do.

You mentioned something that's very insightful, actually. Because liberals, once they understand this concept, like it -- at least a lot of them do, because they understand that what we're trying to do is not tell people what to do or to tell California they have to do something and South Carolina does something else. What we're talking about is where things are decided.

And that's the difference here that -- the thing that creates disunity all over the country now is you've got so many things being decided in Washington about what we should do and how we should live our lives.

What we need to do is let states and local communities and people themselves make more of their decisions. As long as power keeps gravitating to Washington, the more I think this disunity we're going to have in America.

GLENN: Uh-huh. So let me take this now -- for the liberals, let me take this -- the conservatives. Do you think the conservatives fell asleep on Article V after Trump was elected, and has that changed?

JIM: No, I don't think so. Because I believe that most of what President Trump is trying to do are things that we agree with. But we see that ever since he was elected, that they have made this big deal of Russia. If Russia did anything, that's on Obama. I mean, Obama was supposed to be watching our country and our security systems and stuff like that. But I think what we've seen is despite the strong personality of Trump, he's put some good people in the agencies. They're still making it almost impossible for him to get anything done. And even with Republican majorities, we see in the budgets that they pass, we're going to keep spending and keep growing the government. Hopefully we can have some small successes. But I don't think the country is falling asleep. And I see this as a mission that the grassroots, the folks who are involved with the Tea Party, who are discouraged now, that people can see, this is a very focused idea. If we come together, this is maybe the only way we can restrain an out-of-control federal government.

GLENN: Jim, the -- who are you more disappointed with? Congress or the presidency? Because I have to tell you, Congress is, in my opinion, absolutely shameful. Shameful the way they're acting and spending. And, you know, the way they dealt with Obamacare is just -- is mind-boggling.

JIM: Yeah. I agree. No, I'm disappointed in Congress. I frankly think the Trump administration has done a lot of good things that they can do on their own. But they're in a boxed canyon. Everybody is shooting at them, including Republicans. You go to the White House, it's just surrounded by tents of media people who every day are looking for something they're doing wrong.

But one of the things I want to do on the Hill is work with conservatives to try to make him more effective. Because once you get there, whether you're in the House or the Senate, you're in your own little foxhole. Everybody is firing at you, every time you try to do something right. They try to throw you off a committee or get you back home with your constituents. We can do a lot better uniting and equipping conservatives once they're elected. And that's what I'm going to try to do, along with a small team, is to get them to work more closely together and try to protect those who are trying to do the right thing.

GLENN: More with Jim DeMint, who is now one of the senior advisers of the Convention of States Project, in just a minute.

[break]

GLENN: Former senator Jim DeMint is with us now. He's with the Convention of States. Just left the Heritage Foundation.

Senator, let me ask you a couple of questions. As a former senator, it came out last night in a very weird sort of way, the head of NewsMax left the White House at 5:30. Went over to PBS to do the news hour and said that President Trump is considering letting go of Bob Mueller and shutting down the independent counsel. Paul Ryan said today he has confidence in Mueller. The White House has since denied that that is happening. But has said that he's at least thinking about it.

What would that -- what would your reaction be if -- if you were a senator to something like that?

JIM: Well, I think that now that he's in place, it would probably be a mistake for the president to -- to terminate that. I think it was a mistake to appoint a special prosecutor because if you look at how they worked over the years, they almost have to find something. And if they can't find something that they were supposed to be looking at, they'll look at something else.

And I was hoping, when it happened, that maybe it would settle. The Russia thing. And Trump could go on to leading the country. But apparently they're not going to let that happen. I just think that now that he's in place, they're going to have to ride it out for a while, at least until there's some more testimony that proves that Trump has not only never been under investigation, but there has been no evidence since all this started, that Trump or his team had anything to do with it.

So more testimony like that, I think it would be good if members of Congress, particularly in the Senate, called on a resignation and the termination of a special prosecutor. But the president needs some help with this. So if Republicans are taking cover, it's going to be hard for him to do it himself.

GLENN: Jim, there is evidence that came out today -- we're going to share it in about five to eight minutes -- there is real disturbing evidence now that has nothing to do with Clinton or -- or Donald Trump, that the Russians did target our election in incomprehensible ways. And hit and actually broke into 37 of our states and got into the polling numbers in 37 states. Did not, luckily, affect the election. But that is the one thing that I got out of the testimony last week that I don't think the media or anybody else is paying attention to, because we're so busy playing politics.

JIM: Right.

GLENN: The Russians are not just coming, they're here.

JIM: Exactly, Glenn. We've known for years, Russia has the most sophisticated propaganda machine in the world. And has been interfering with elections for decades. It's one of the problems we've seen in Ukraine and former Soviet republics. They're constantly destabilizing governments and being engaged in elections. Everyone in the Obama administration knew that this was a risk, and the fact that it was not addressed, that more was not done is a gaping hole in our security. So it does concern me that our cyber security for our US government and our country is so weak. We've lost military secrets, and now they're in our election booths.

GLENN: We were talking about this earlier today. I think in any other time in American history, with what they did -- what I believe they did with WikiLeaks. You know, how they hacked into the DNC. And now we have stark evidence that they hacked into 37 states. I think at any other time in history, that would be akin to an act of war. Am I wrong or right, historically?

JIM: Well, it's definitely the new type of warfare. And we've lost billions of dollars in military secrets, not only to Russia, to China. We need to do a whole -- I know I worked on it some in the Senate, to build a better cyber security system. But the government is always ten years behind. And they've been hesitant to use a lot of the private sector sources, haven't figured out what to do there. But we need to catch up on that because lives are at stake on our intelligence system. And certainly if our whole Democratic system now is in jeopardy, then that's a huge problem.

GLENN: We're in Texas, Jim. I know 12 states now have called for the Convention of States. Thirty-two other states are considering it this year. I didn't think Texas was going to -- I mean, first I thought it was insane that Texas wouldn't pass it. Then I thought, oh, my gosh, the Texas legislature isn't going to do it. They eventually did. How are the other states shaping up? And did Texas make a difference in momentum?

JIM: Texas always makes a difference. That's one of the reasons we're working now with Texas on school choice. The more they -- they set a pattern for the country in a positive way. The opposite of what California opposite does. But it's the grassroots strength of the conservative movement in Texas that made the difference with your legislature there. Because there were a number of people trying to block it or hide from it. And that's what's happening around the country. The Convention of States Project is building a grassroots network of millions of people who have come to understand that this may be the only way to save our country. And so they're engaged in every state. And during the next legislative cycle, you're going to probably see ten or 20 states come play with a lot of grassroots support. So that's what I'm going to do all over the country. Call on people who have been trying to elect good people. Who have worked in the Tea Party. Who have been active, to come help us call this Article V convention of the states.

GLENN: And it's -- it is -- I really, truly believe this is the -- this is the fix. This is the Founders' fix. I wish we would have thought of it when the Tea Party was roaring because we could have really gotten things done. But we need people to be involved in the Convention of States. The things that you want to -- and believe you can get done if the convention is called.

JIM: It's in three categories. The thing that interests me most about how we're doing it, with the convention of state project, is we're not proposing the specific amendments. Because we found, like, for instance, if you're working on term limits, then everybody wants term limits, is going to disagree, whether it's six, eight, or 12 years.

GLENN: Yeah.

JIM: But what we're doing are three areas, that we will pass amendments restrict fiscally what the federal government can do to borrow money. Generally it will deal with a balanced budget. But also tax and spending restrictions. The other is jurisdiction and authorization. It will restrict what the federal government can do on the regulatory front, on what it can do, for instance, controlling education, health care. Give states much more latitude there.

The third subject is to be to put term limits on federal officials. Congressmen. Senators. And perhaps even federal judges.

GLENN: What do you say to people who say -- and I've got about 30 seconds for this answer. What do you say to people who say, you know, you put term limits on, then it's going to be the bureaucrats that are going to be running everything?

JIM: That's just not true. Every time you have a new wave of people coming in, they bring a lot of their own people. They will get something done. They know they have a short period of time, and they're not going to put up much of this, let's do it after the next election. So it's a way to clean the plate up and get people to think about the country rather than a political career.

GLENN: It is always an honor to talk to you, Jim. Thank you so much for your service of the country. Thanks for what you did at Heritage Foundation. And now, joining the Convention of States Project. If you want to get involved with the Convention of States, how do you do it, Jim, quickly?

JIM: Just go to the website. Just Google "Convention of States Project," and you'll be right there on our site. GLENN: Former senator Jim DeMint is with us now. He's with the Convention of States. Just left the Heritage Foundation.

Senator, let me ask you a couple of questions. As a former senator, it came out last night in a very weird sort of way, the head of NewsMax left the White House at 5:30. Went over to PBS to do the news hour and said that President Trump is considering letting go of Bob Mueller and shutting down the independent counsel. Paul Ryan said today he has confidence in Mueller. The White House has since denied that that is happening. But has said that he's at least thinking about it.

What would that -- what would your reaction be if -- if you were a senator to something like that?

JIM: Well, I think that now that he's in place, it would probably be a mistake for the president to -- to terminate that. I think it was a mistake to appoint a special prosecutor because if you look at how they worked over the years, they almost have to find something. And if they can't find something that they were supposed to be looking at, they'll look at something else.

And I was hoping, when it happened, that maybe it would settle. The Russia thing. And Trump could go on to leading the country. But apparently they're not going to let that happen. I just think that now that he's in place, they're going to have to ride it out for a while, at least until there's some more testimony that proves that Trump has not only never been under investigation, but there has been no evidence since all this started, that Trump or his team had anything to do with it.

So more testimony like that, I think it would be good if members of Congress, particularly in the Senate, called on a resignation and the termination of a special prosecutor. But the president needs some help with this. So if Republicans are taking cover, it's going to be hard for him to do it himself.

GLENN: Jim, there is evidence that came out today -- we're going to share it in about five to eight minutes -- there is real disturbing evidence now that has nothing to do with Clinton or -- or Donald Trump, that the Russians did target our election in incomprehensible ways. And hit and actually broke into 37 of our states and got into the polling numbers in 37 states. Did not, luckily, affect the election. But that is the one thing that I got out of the testimony last week that I don't think the media or anybody else is paying attention to, because we're so busy playing politics.

JIM: Right.

GLENN: The Russians are not just coming, they're here.

JIM: Exactly, Glenn. We've known for years, Russia has the most sophisticated propaganda machine in the world. And has been interfering with elections for decades. It's one of the problems we've seen in Ukraine and former Soviet republics. They're constantly destabilizing governments and being engaged in elections. Everyone in the Obama administration knew that this was a risk, and the fact that it was not addressed, that more was not done is a gaping hole in our security. So it does concern me that our cyber security for our US government and our country is so weak. We've lost military secrets, and now they're in our election booths.

GLENN: We were talking about this earlier today. I think in any other time in American history, with what they did -- what I believe they did with WikiLeaks. You know, how they hacked into the DNC. And now we have stark evidence that they hacked into 37 states. I think at any other time in history, that would be akin to an act of war. Am I wrong or right, historically?

JIM: Well, it's definitely the new type of warfare. And we've lost billions of dollars in military secrets, not only to Russia, to China. We need to do a whole -- I know I worked on it some in the Senate, to build a better cyber security system. But the government is always ten years behind. And they've been hesitant to use a lot of the private sector sources, haven't figured out what to do there. But we need to catch up on that because lives are at stake on our intelligence system. And certainly if our whole Democratic system now is in jeopardy, then that's a huge problem.

GLENN: We're in Texas, Jim. I know 12 states now have called for the Convention of States. Thirty-two other states are considering it this year. I didn't think Texas was going to -- I mean, first I thought it was insane that Texas wouldn't pass it. Then I thought, oh, my gosh, the Texas legislature isn't going to do it. They eventually did. How are the other states shaping up? And did Texas make a difference in momentum?

JIM: Texas always makes a difference. That's one of the reasons we're working now with Texas on school choice. The more they -- they set a pattern for the country in a positive way. The opposite of what California opposite does. But it's the grassroots strength of the conservative movement in Texas that made the difference with your legislature there. Because there were a number of people trying to block it or hide from it. And that's what's happening around the country. The Convention of States Project is building a grassroots network of millions of people who have come to understand that this may be the only way to save our country. And so they're engaged in every state. And during the next legislative cycle, you're going to probably see ten or 20 states come play with a lot of grassroots support. So that's what I'm going to do all over the country. Call on people who have been trying to elect good people. Who have worked in the Tea Party. Who have been active, to come help us call this Article V convention of the states.

GLENN: And it's -- it is -- I really, truly believe this is the -- this is the fix. This is the Founders' fix. I wish we would have thought of it when the Tea Party was roaring because we could have really gotten things done. But we need people to be involved in the Convention of States. The things that you want to -- and believe you can get done if the convention is called.

JIM: It's in three categories. The thing that interests me most about how we're doing it, with the convention of state project, is we're not proposing the specific amendments. Because we found, like, for instance, if you're working on term limits, then everybody wants term limits, is going to disagree, whether it's six, eight, or 12 years.

GLENN: Yeah.

JIM: But what we're doing are three areas, that we will pass amendments restrict fiscally what the federal government can do to borrow money. Generally it will deal with a balanced budget. But also tax and spending restrictions. The other is jurisdiction and authorization. It will restrict what the federal government can do on the regulatory front, on what it can do, for instance, controlling education, health care. Give states much more latitude there.

The third subject is to be to put term limits on federal officials. Congressmen. Senators. And perhaps even federal judges.

GLENN: What do you say to people who say -- and I've got about 30 seconds for this answer. What do you say to people who say, you know, you put term limits on, then it's going to be the bureaucrats that are going to be running everything?

JIM: That's just not true. Every time you have a new wave of people coming in, they bring a lot of their own people. They will get something done. They know they have a short period of time, and they're not going to put up much of this, let's do it after the next election. So it's a way to clean the plate up and get people to think about the country rather than a political career.

GLENN: It is always an honor to talk to you, Jim. Thank you so much for your service of the country. Thanks for what you did at Heritage Foundation. And now, joining the Convention of States Project. If you want to get involved with the Convention of States, how do you do it, Jim, quickly?

JIM: Just go to the website. Just Google "Convention of States Project," and you'll be right there on our site.

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