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Sen. Graham says he was stating the apparent with Trump riots claim

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U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks at a press conference on the U.S. Capitol on August 05, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Kevin Dietsch | Getty Images

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham on Saturday defended suggesting there could be “riots within the streets” if former President Donald Trump was prosecuted for mishandling classified information, saying he condemned the violence seen through the Capitol riot last yr.

“What I attempted to do was state the apparent,” Graham, a South Carolina Republican and shut ally of Trump, told CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick on the Ambrosetti Forum in Italy.

“Here’s what I said, The raid on [former] President Trump’s home, the likely nominee for 2024, higher bear some fruit here,” he added. “If it’s nearly mishandling classified information, we have had a normal set when it got here to Hillary Clinton.”

“Our country, the people on our side, consider that in the case of the justice system, there aren’t any rules regarding Trump, [it’s a case of] ‘get him, it doesn’t matter the way you get him,’ so I said that if it’s much like what happened to Clinton and he gets prosecuted, it’ll be one of the crucial disruptive events in America,” Graham said.

Trump and his allies have argued that the FBI, which is investigating Trump for potential violations of laws related to espionage and obstruction of justice, is treating him in another way than it treated Hillary Clinton, who was the topic of an FBI investigation into her use of a non-public email server while secretary of state, but wasn’t prosecuted. Trump’s critics argue that the 2 cases aren’t comparable.

Graham said he rejected the violence seen on the Jan.6 Capitol riot and said “all those individuals who defiled the Capitol should go to jail” but said that any perceived unfairness toward Trump would have consequences.

“I don’t desire to pardon the January sixth people because that seems to bolster the narrative that that is OK. I said something I actually consider — if he does what she did with classified information and he gets prosecuted and he or she didn’t it will create an issue.”

Graham said last week that there could be “riots within the streets” if Trump was prosecuted for mishandling classified information.

“I’ll say this, if there is a prosecution of Donald Trump for mishandling classified information, after the Clinton debacle … there will be riots within the streets,” Graham told Fox News’ Trey Gowdy, a former Republican congressman.

Trump ‘was a consequential president’

Trump is currently under investigation and risks being indicted over his treatment of classified White House records that he took to his residence in Mar-a-Lago, Florida.

Last week, the discharge of a heavily redacted affidavit showed how concerns about criminality and obstruction of justice led to an FBI search at Trump’s resort in July.

Graham conceded that he believed in “handling classified information responsibly” but again insisted that “mishandling classified information is basically bad but we will not have a system where one person gets prosecuted and the opposite doesn’t.”

Asked whether Trump is the very best person to represent the Republican Party in 2024, Graham said “I feel he might be.”

“Whether you want Trump or not he was a consequential president … I feel a robust American president, unpredictable, is an excellent thing so long as you retain it throughout the boundaries. His problem is personal, his policies have stood the test of time but has he worn the American people out when it comes to his personality? Time will tell. But I’ll say this, after the Biden presidency, if there is a policy debate in 2024, I like his probabilities. If it is a personality contest, he’ll be in trouble.”

Graham said he talks to Trump “on a regular basis” and that the previous president still thinks that he was “cheated.” Graham said he voted to certify the 2020 election and that Biden is the legitimate president.

Trump “genuinely believes that the system was rigged against him and I said ‘Mr. President, I’m not attempting to let you know to alter your beliefs. I’m attempting to let you know that you might have no probability of winning in 2020 but you might have a fairly good probability of winning in 2024 if you desire to,'” Graham said, noting that he told Trump that if he does make a comeback “it is going to be one in all the best political comebacks in American history.”

Speech and debate clause

A federal judge on Thursday denied Graham’s latest effort to challenge a subpoena for his testimony before a special grand jury in Georgia, which is investigating possible criminal election interference by Trump and his allies in 2020.

Nonetheless, the judge limited the scope of the subpoena by ordering that Graham couldn’t be questioned about phone calls he made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his staff within the weeks after the November 2020 election between Trump and President Joe Biden.

It follows continued bids by Graham to avoid testifying on the grounds that his position as a lawmaker grants him immunity under the U.S. Structure’s “speech or debate” clause. 

Graham reiterated his position on Saturday, saying “I didn’t start this debate. You have got a rustic prosecutor who has decided to research a national election and to call anybody and everybody connected with the role they played within the election. I’m a United States Senator, in our Structure, we’ve got a speech or debate immunity clause in order that we will not be hauled into courts everywhere in the country each time we do something any individual doesn’t like.”

“I feel the court goes to acknowledge that my activities as a United States Senator was covered by the speech and debate clause that that the county prosecutor’s desire to bring me all the way down to Georgia oversteps the structure.”

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