Lindsey Graham is back to the firey persona we came to love during the Kavanaugh hearings that earned him the nickname Lindsey 2.0. In a press conference on Wednesday, Graham went nuclear on Democrats and their complicit stooges in the mainstream press. It was a beautiful thing. In response to Chuck Schumer demanding that executive privilege be waived to force key members of the president’s staff—like former National Security Adviser John Bolton, current acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and others—to testify, Graham stated that the president should not comply, agreeing with Trump, who has directed them to refuse to testify.
“Here’s what I saw yesterday,” said Graham. “I saw an effort to ask the Senate to ignore every privilege that President Clinton was able to exercise, Nixon was able to exercise and to suggest to the Senate that an independent judiciary is a non-player. If I was the president I wouldn’t cooperate with these guys at all.”
Graham spoke with passionate fury at the idea of putting the presidency in such a precarious position, where a partisan House could impeach him on purely political terms, while erasing executive privilege in the process.
Graham’s pitch began to rise, showing his irritation at the Democrats and their sham process. “Schiff, Nadler, and Pelosi impeached this president in 48 days. I wouldn’t give them the time of day!”
Graham continued to rail against the Democrats, “They’re on a crusade to destroy this man and they don’t care what they destroy in the process of trying to destroy Donald Trump,” he exclaimed. “I do care. To my Democrat colleagues: you can say what you want about me, but I’m covering up nothing. I’m exposing your hatred of this president to the point that you would destroy the institution.”
During the Clinton impeachment, both sides were allowed to make opening statements before the Senate decided on whether to call witnesses. Republicans want the same standard to apply to Trump’s impeachment proceedings. Democrats are trying to force a decision about witnesses before the facts are presented to the Senate in this case. Graham pointed out how outraged the media and Democrats would be if the situation were reversed.
“Nobody would be saying this about a Democratic president if a Republican House had done this. You wouldn’t even ask me that question,” he railed at the captive reporters. “All of you would be in our face saying that there’s a Democratic president and you’re denying that person…a chance to go to court and litigate these matters because you hate them so much. It shows you how complicit people have become when it comes to Trump.”
Graham continued to berate the reporters in front of him for not asking any questions about what Democrats are trying to do.”Not one question about the idea that a Democratic-controlled house in 48 days impeached the president of the United States with the process where he couldn’t have a lawyer, couldn’t call a witness, and they hold it against him because he wants to object to turning over documents to them. You would be all over us!”
Then Graham issued a warning about the upcoming November election: “Let me tell you what’s going to happen in November. This won’t matter much. People are going to judge the president about what he’s done and what he can do and they’re going to look at the Democratic alternative and ask ‘will I be better off with this person or Trump?'”
Then Graham put Democrats on notice. “I’m going to remember this for a very long time. No good deed goes unpunished around this place,” he said. “Working with my Democrat colleagues I’ve tried to give Mueller the space to do his job and I’ve told the president to his face ‘if it’s proven that you worked with the Russians, or you sought something from the Russians and got it, that’s it for me and you.'”
Graham was praised for his stance on the Mueller investigation by Democrats, but now they’re turning on him. “Now, the same people that patted me on the back are asking me to railroad the guy, to legitimize a process in the House that will destroy the presidency over time,” he said. “I will not be part of that.”
Graham continued to nail the press over their hypocrisy for only asking questions that Democrats want answered. “Would you be asking different questions if this were a Democratic president treated so poorly by a Republican house?” he asked.
Graham laid out why executive privilege matters to all presidents. “[The charge of] abuse of power, in this case, I think undercuts the ability of the president to literally do his job,” he said. “There’s nobody more important to the president than the secretary of State, national security advisor, and chief of staff.” Calling those people as witnesses in a political hit job would hamper every future president’s ability to have privileged conversations with his most trusted advisors. “He needs to protect the institution of the presidency,” continued Graham. “So, if I’m asked to waive executive privilege, I will say no.”
Then Graham raised the possibility of bringing this matter to a real court. “The only option is to stop the trial and go to court or have the Senate decide the privilege,” he said. Graham did not bow to Democrats’ demands. “Here’s what I will tell future Houses. If you blow through these privileges because you want to impeach a president before the election and you come to the Senate and you ask me to destroy the privilege, forget it. I’m not going to reward this kind of behavior, so the only option available to the Senate now is to recognize the privilege and that’s the end of [John] Bolton’s testimony or stop the trial and send it to court, which they should have done to begin with.”
Bolton, the former national security advisor, has indicated that he would testify if called, despite the order from the president not to. But as Graham points out, it’s not up to Bolton. The executive branch of government has its own unique powers, including executive privilege. If the Senate starts meddling in that, it takes away a very important function of the presidency.
“I’m not going to legitimize what I think is a dangerous process. So I’m not going to trade executive privilege,” Graham stated.
The Republican senators successfully shot down all eleven attempts by Democrats to call privileged witnesses.
Megan Fox is the author of “Believe Evidence; The Death of Due Process from Salome to #MeToo,” and host of The Fringe podcast. Follow on Twitter @MeganFoxWriter