Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a top ally of former President Trump, on Sunday shrugged off the former president calling him a “RINO” for not agreeing that Capitol insurrectionists should be given pardons.
Trump’s swipe at Graham came after the GOP senator said that it was “inappropriate” for the former president to pledge to his supporters that he would treat Capitol insurrectionists “fairly” by giving them pardons if he runs for and wins re-election.
“Well, Lindsey Graham’s wrong. I mean, Lindsey’s a nice guy, but he’s a RINO,” Trump said in an interview on Newsmax earlier this month, referring to the acronym for “Republican in name only.”
During an interview on ABC News on Sunday, Graham laughed when asked about Trump’s “RINO” jab, an insult the former president deploys liberally when Republican lawmakers demonstrate insufficient loyalty.
“Well, here’s my statement about the president’s situation right now: he’s the most dominant figure in the Republican Party,” Graham said, before knocking the Biden administration. “For the president to win in 2024, he’s got to talk about the future.”
Graham said he believes that Trump “has a chance to come back” if he stops his fixation with pushing the Big Lie of a “stolen” 2020 presidential election.
“I think it hurts his cause and, quite frankly, it hurts the Republican Party,” Graham said.
Earlier in the interview, Graham also stood by previous remarks in which he argued that the GOP “can’t grow without” Trump.
“If he wants to be the Republican nominee for the Republican Party, it’s his for the taking,” Graham said.
Graham in that vein, saying that the former president is “the most consequential Republican in the Republican Party today.”
“He has a great chance of being president again in 2024 if he’ll start comparing what he did as president versus what’s going on now and how to fix the mess we’re in,” Graham said. “If he looks backward, I think he’s hurting his chances.”
Despite Graham taking heat from Trump for not sharing the former president’s eagerness to pardon insurrectionists, the GOP senator had, in fact, tried to both-sides his way out of Trump’s suggestion that he might pardon the mob of his supporters who participated in the deadly Capitol insurrection if he is re-elected.
During an interview on CBS last month, Graham initially sidestepped the question about whether he agrees with Trump on pardoning insurrectionists.
Pressed again on whether he thinks Trump’s pledge is “dangerous,” Graham then acknowledged that Trump’s vow was “inappropriate” while reiterating that he does not condone “defiling” the Capitol.
Soon after, Graham pivoted to bothsides-ing the situation by alluding to Kamala Harris’ tweet in the wake of George Floyd’s death in 2020 that included a link to a bail fund for protesters in Minnesota. Graham has rolled out that same argument — a GOP fixation when excusing the insurrection — before over the past year.
“When Kamala Harris and her associates and the people that work for her, her staffers, raised money to bail out the rioters who hit cops in the head and burned down stores — I didn’t like that either,” Graham told CBS.
“So I don’t want to do anything from raising bail to pardoning people who take the law into their own hands because it will make more violence more likely. I want to deter people who did what [happened] on January the 6th,” Graham continued. “And those who did it, I hope they go to jail and get the book thrown at them because they deserve it.”
After egging on Trump’s bogus claims of election fraud for months, Graham has repeatedly come to the former president’s defense after the insurrection. In addition to casting Trump’s second impeachment trial for “incitement of insurrection” as a partisan attack, Graham has at times parroted Trump’s crusade against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), following McConnell’s condemnation of Trump for inciting the mob that stormed the Capitol. Graham threatened to vote against McConnell if he doesn’t “effectively work” with the former president.
Watch Graham’s remarks below: