Senator Lindsey Graham’s prediction on Sunday that a prosecution of former President Donald J. Trump would result in “riots within the streets” added a component of menace to the fraught decisions facing Justice Department officials as they consider next steps within the investigation of Mr. Trump’s handling of classified material.
Mr. Graham, a South Carolina Republican who moved from a fierce critic of Mr. Trump to a loyal companion, appeared on Fox News, drawing a comparison between the investigation of Mr. Trump and the Justice Department’s decision in 2016 to not prosecute Hillary Clinton for using a non-public server for State Department communications. In 2019, a State Department inquiry into the server concluded, “There was no persuasive evidence of systemic, deliberate mishandling of classified information.”
“If they fight to prosecute President Trump for mishandling classified information after Hillary Clinton arrange a server in her basement, there literally might be riots on the street. I worry about our country,” he said.
“I like the law,” he said. “I’ve never been more apprehensive in regards to the law in politics as I’m at once.”
A spokesman for Mr. Graham, Kevin Bishop, emphasized on Monday that the senator was making a prediction, not a threat.
In Charleston on Monday, Mr. Graham sought to make clear his remarks. He again raised Ms. Clinton, saying, “America cannot live with this sort of double standard. I believed what she did was bad, but she got a pass at the top of the day.” He added, “I reject violence. I’m not calling for violence.” But, he said, “the underside line is there might be plenty of upset people” if Mr. Trump is charged.
Still, raising the prospect of rioting got here as Trump supporters’ threats against law enforcement have crescendoed. One such supporter was killed earlier this month when he tried to breach the F.B.I.’s office in Cincinnati. Threats have rained down on the judge involved in approving the search warrant of Mar-a-Lago, Bruce E. Reinhart. And the Justice Department warned last week that unless the affidavit in search of the search warrant was heavily redacted, it, too, would prompt violent threats or worse against cooperating witnesses.