Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is facing a backlash after claiming political violence would erupt if former President Donald Trump is indicted for mishandling presidential records.
President Joe Biden on Tuesday, while not mentioning Graham by name, appeared to call out to him at a political rally in Pennsylvania, saying, “the idea that you turn on a television and see senators and members of the Congress say if such and such happens, there’ll be blood in the street. Where the hell are we?”
Graham’s comments came at a time when threats from Trump supporters against law enforcement have escalated following the search of Mar-a-Lago and at least one man citing him attacked an FBI field office in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was later killed by police.
Law enforcement officials told ABC News they were investigating social media posts apparently linked to the suspect who called for violence in the days following the FBI raid.
During an appearance on Fox News on Sunday, the former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said “there will be riots in the streets” if Trump faces legal ramifications for taking at least 184 classified documents to his Mar-a-Lago estate after leaving office.
After months of negotiations between the Justice Department and the National Archives with Trump’s legal teams to return the documents to him, the FBI executed a search warrant Aug. 8 at Mar-a-Lago. But since then, Graham and many other Republicans have argued that Trump faced a double standard over how the DOJ treated Hillary Clinton.
Specifically, Clinton, Trump’s 2016 Democratic rival for the presidency, was not charged after investigations into her use of a private email server containing classified information while she was secretary of state.
The two cases are however not the same. In both cases, the FBI launched criminal investigations, obtaining search warrants to obtain or access relevant documents. But in Clinton’s case, the FBI said in findings released in July 2016, the classified information was passed on improperly out of negligence, not for the purpose of circumventing the law.
The caliber of “classified information” found on Hillary Clinton’s private servers was not the same as that found at Mar-a-Lago, particularly with respect to highly sensitive special access programs. According to the Justice Department’s report on the Clinton case, investigators found seven email strings on Clinton’s servers that were “relevant” and “associated with a special access program, when it appears that Trump kept the SAP documents himself at Mar-a-Lago. .
The Trump case is ongoing, but an unsealed search warrant and property receipt from the FBI raid confirmed the former president took properly marked classified documents from the White House.
Experts said it was highly unlikely the Justice Department would have issued such a search warrant without significant evidence. “The department does not make such a decision lightly,” Garland said at the press conference following the FBI raid.
“If they try to sue President Trump for mishandling classified information after Hillary Clinton installed a server in his basement, there will literally be riots in the streets. I worry about our country” , Graham told the Fox News host and former South Carolina GOP. Representative Trey Gowdy. Later in the program, Graham again repeated the threat of violence.
Graham again doubled down on his earlier remarks in Charleston on Monday, again comparing Trump’s FBI search to the Clinton investigation, saying, “America can’t live with that kind of double standard. I thought this what she had done was bad, but she got a pass at the end of the day.”
Using less inflammatory language, he said there would be a lot of “upset people” if Trump was prosecuted. “I reject violence. I don’t call for violence. Violence is not the answer, but I’m just telling you,” he said.
Despite mounting evidence against the former president, Trump and allies like Graham have repeatedly accused the Justice Department of being biased against him.
The Department of Justice on Friday released the redacted affidavit that supported the search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. The affidavit describes months of interactions between the National Archives and Records Administration and Trump’s team to secure the return of documents that were improperly removed from the White House.
“Most Republicans, including me, believe that when it comes to Trump, there is no law. It’s about having it. There’s a double standard when it comes to Trump,” said Graham.
Trump posted a video clip of Graham’s comments on his Truth social media platform, but without commentary.
Asked about a response to Graham’s remarks on Monday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, “We’ve seen MAGA Republicans attack our democracy. We’ve seen MAGA Republicans take away our rights, uttering threats of violence, including this weekend…”
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-California, tweeted on Monday about Graham’s remarks in contrast to the legislative victories Democrats enjoyed throughout the summer.
“We are fighting for relief from prescription drug costs for the elderly, relief from inflation for working-class families, relief from mass shootings for parents, relief from the climate crisis for farmers. Republicans like @LindseyGrahamSC promise riots,” he tweeted.
The Washington Post editorialized“There is no excuse for this irresponsible rhetoric, which not only invites violence but also defies democratic norms.”
A new joint intelligence bulletin obtained by ABC News confirms that the FBI has seen an increase in threats and acts of violence, including armed encounters, against its agents and law enforcement since their search of Trump’s home in Florida.
Since the raid, the FBI and DHS have identified several articulated threats and calls for the targeted killing of judicial, law enforcement and government officials associated with the Palm Beach raid, including the federal judge who approved the Palm Beach search warrant, according to the bulletin.
Graham has been a staunch defender of the former president, despite briefly breaking up with Trump right after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
It is currently resisting a grand jury investigation on possible election interference in Georgia, fighting a subpoena as part of the investigation into Trump’s alleged efforts to bully Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and other state officials into rescinding his 2020 loss to President Joe Biden, asking Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to secure his victory.
Graham had recently hired former President Trump’s first White House attorney, Donald McGahn, to serve on his legal team.
The investigation is being led by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who subpoenaed Graham in July. In fighting the order, Graham argued, among other things, that he was acting “in [his] official legislative responsibilities” as a senator and chairman of the Judiciary Committee when he allegedly called on Georgian officials following the 2020 elections.
On Monday, new court filings from the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office blasted the temporary subpoena block granted to Graham by a federal appeals court. The motion mentions that the strength of the relationship between Trump and Graham weakens the senator’s pressure against the testimony.
“Senator Graham’s repetition of his previous arguments does not entitle him to a partial rescission, and the district attorney respectfully requests that his motion be dismissed,” Fulton senior assistant district attorney Donald Wakeford wrote in a statement. petition filed on Monday.
Fulton County District Attorney answer comes after Graham told Gowdy on Sunday he had a “good legal case” against testifying before a grand jury.
“If we let county prosecutors start calling senators and congressmen as witnesses when they’re doing their job, then you’ve thrown our constitutional balance out of whack here,” Graham said of the inquiry Sunday at Gowdy.
“I have a good legal case, I will pursue it…. You love the law, I love the law. I have never been so preoccupied with law and politics as I am right now. How can you tell a conservative Republican that the system works when it comes to Trump?”
ABC News’ Aaron Katersky, Olivia Rubin and Will Steakin contributed to this report.