On Sunday, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, praised former president Donald Trump as he defended his vote to acquit him in his second impeachment trial and lamented that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell hurt the Republican party with his speech following the trial.
During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Graham said that Trump “was grateful to his lawyers” and “appreciated the help that all of us provided,” adding that the former president was “ready to move on and rebuild the Republican Party” and “excited about 2022.”
Graham, one of Trump’s most vocal Senate allies, said the former president was “mad at some folks,” prompting host Chris Wallace to ask whether that included Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who voted to acquit Trump but made a floor speech suggesting he believed him to have incited the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.
“I think Sen. McConnell’s speech — he got a load off his chest but unfortunately put a load on the back of Republicans,” Graham said. “That speech you will see in 2022 campaigns. I would imagine if you’re a Republican running in Georgia, Arizona, New Hampshire, where we have a chance to take back the Senate, they may be playing Sen. McConnell’s speech and asking you about it if you’re a candidate.”
Graham added, “I think [McConnell’s] speech was an outlier regarding how Republicans feel about all this.”
Wallace specifically pressed Graham on a reported phone call between Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in which the former president told McCarthy the rioters at the Capitol “care more about the election” than McCarthy did, which Graham dismissed as “hearsay.”
Graham said Trump “bears responsibility of pushing narratives about the election that I think are not sound and not true” in reference to the former president’s repeated claims about election fraud but said those false claims were “politically protected speech.”