South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is among an increasing number of GOP lawmakers to criticize Donald Trump for promising to issue pardons to Jan 6 insurrectionists.
On a radio interview on September 1, Trump indicated that if elected again, he’d look at pardons for those who stormed the capitol: “I mean full pardons with an apology to many.”
Trump’s comments faced immediate backlash from Democrats, but also made some GOP figures uncomfortable.
The Hill approached several lawmakers and asked their opinion. Lindsey Graham, who is normally a devout Trump ally, was among those to break rank, calling it a “bad idea.”
“Pardons are given to people who admit misconduct, rehabilitate themselves. They’re not supposed to be used for other purposes,” he said.
“It reinforces violence. The people who defiled the Capitol and took the law in their own hands deserve to be brought to justice,” he added.
North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer, also normally a Trump ally, echoed Graham’s comments.
“I don’t think potential candidates should hold pardons out as a promise. It’s somewhat problematic for me on a moral level and an ethical level — sort of like promising other giveaways to particular individuals.
“I prefer avoiding those kinds of things,” he said.
South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds agreed.
“I was there. This was truly violent. People were injured, people were killed. I have very little mercy for the individuals that were involved in that activity that day … I think these folks need to be punished.”
Utah Senator Mitt Romney, who has often criticized Donald Trump, was another leading figure to criticize the suggestion of pardons.
The Hill notes other GOP figures have not criticized Trump over the remarks. Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley said acts of violence must face punishment. However, they feared some people who peacefully protested on the day were receiving unduly harsh treatment at the hands of the justice system.
“The Biden Justice Department has used Jan. 6 and the violent acts of a few to justify persecuting the peaceful protest and political speech of the many,” Cruz said. “It is wildly inconsistent.
Lindsey Graham’s flip-flopping with Donald Trump
Graham unequivocally denounced Donald Trump before the 2016 election but then morphed into one of his lap dogs. He has, on rare occasions, voiced criticism. The day after the Jan 6th insurrection, Graham took to the Senate floor to denounce what happened. He also said Joe Biden had been lawfully elected.
Trump has previously floated the idea of pardoning the Jan. 6 rioters. He mentioned it at a rally in Texas in late January. On that occasion, too, Graham voiced his opposition, calling the suggestion “inappropriate” in an interview with CBS News.
“I don’t want to send any signal that it was OK to defile the Capitol. There are other groups with causes that may want to go down to the violent path that these people get pardoned.”
That prompted Trump to blast Graham as a “RINO” (Republican In Name Only), telling Newsmax Graham, “doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about.”