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Time To Talk

Lindsey Graham Still Owes a Grand Jury an Explanation

The Fulton County D.A.’s office says Graham “possesses necessary and material information.” What did Lindsey know, and when did he learn it?

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham

Lindsey Graham was slated to give testimony this week to the grand jury that was empaneled to look into Donald Trump’s attempt to steal Georgia’s 16 electoral votes in 2020. But the South Carolina senator managed to hustle up a temporary legal reprieve from the 11th Circuit Court of Court of Appeals this weekend, which will postpone his trip to Fulton County.*

It’s hard to see this qualifying as an emergency, although I can see why Graham might think it is. He did something in conjunction with Trump’s attempted thievery that, while perhaps not illegal, was certainly inappropriate. As one of the weakest and most slavish Trump bootlickers in the entire Republican Party, Graham has very much earned a date with the grand jury, and there seems to be reason to suspect that he knows a lot more than he’s letting on.

Here’s what we know. In the wake of the election, he made two calls to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to inquire whether some ballots could be thrown out. Raffensperger told CNN at the time: “He asked if the ballots could be matched back to the voters. And then he, I got the sense it implied that then you could throw those out for any, if you look at the counties with the highest frequent error of signatures. So that’s the impression that I got.” Raffensperger added: “It was just an implication of, ‘Look hard, and see how many ballots you could throw out.’”

Raffensperger also told The Washington Post at the time that Graham asked him questions about the state’s signature-matching law and wondered whether all mail-in ballots from certain counties (let’s guess which ones!) could be tossed. Graham said Raffensperger’s comments were “ridiculous,” and he and his people have argued that these calls were perfectly legitimate since he was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time.

Reread that last phrase, and give it a moment’s reflection. Graham’s argument is that, since elections and such are under his committee’s general jurisdiction, it was perfectly acceptable for him to make these inquiries. And I suppose under Senate rules, which are arcane and obsolete and were written assuming that honorable people with some smattering of integrity would be holding seats in the Senate, he’s probably right.

I can’t help but wonder, though, if Graham was so eager as chairman of that committee to police local election integrity, how many other state elections officials he called. We know of none. And I wonder how many other chairmen of that august committee—Patrick Leahy, Orrin Hatch, Chuck Grassley, and indeed the fellow who now sits in the White House—made such calls during their tenures. Wanna bet me that the answer is zero?

It’s almost certainly zero, because the other chairmen, including the Republicans, would have known—that is, before Donald Trump came along—that making such calls would look like an attempt to put totally inappropriate outside pressure on a state official. It’s rancidly obvious that Graham was trying to help Trump steal Georgia. Whether he crossed any legal lines in doing so, we don’t know.

But what we do know is tantalizing. Last Friday, in its motion to rebut Graham’s delay request, the office of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis wrote that Graham is “crucial” to its investigation and “not simply because he possesses necessary and material information but also because he is expected to provide information regarding additional sources of relevant information.” That sounds like the prosecutors are on to something. Did Graham have any conversations with, oh, Sidney Powell or Cleta Mitchell, the conniving lawyers who were in on the attempted steal?

There exists this temptation to say of certain Republicans that the odd so-and-so wasn’t such a bad fellow until Trump came along. This may be true of a few of them. It isn’t true of Graham. He was a partisan hatchet man from jump street. As one of 13 House Republican impeachment managers in the 1999 Senate trial of Bill Clinton, Graham was among the most aggressive partisans in the group. With Trump, as we know, he has this history of distancing himself and then, after obviously getting blowback from constituents or donors or perhaps Trump himself, or threats about those famous rumors, he returns to the fold more abjectly than ever, straining to re-prove his loyalty to the leader. We can’t help but wonder how he might have strained to prove it in November 2020, when everything was on the line. It looks like a certain grand jury may know a lot more about that by Tuesday evening.

Meanwhile, the topic of abject servitude to Trump brings us to another Graham— Franklin, who went on the Trinity Broadcasting Network recently to denounce the Mar-a-Lago raid, saying of a warrant sought by the FBI and approved by a federal judge: “This is our freedom being eroded in this country.” He then added that he saw no need for a raid because if the FBI “felt he had something that belonged to the government, they certainly could have asked, and he would have returned it.”

It’s time to play, for the jillionth time: Liar or Idiot? In Franklin Graham’s case, I think both. He’s possibly dumb enough to believe that a legitimate search for evidence, after the subject was given many opportunities to take the steps necessary to avoid the search, is a blow to freedom. But he surely must be aware that the government asked many times for Trump to turn over the material in question voluntarily and he never did. So that’s just a lie.

Yes, I’m using the excuse of their shared surname to lump them together. But nomenclature isn’t the only thing they have in common. They represent as perfectly, or horrifically, as anyone the two sides of the Trump lickspittledom that threatens to destroy the republic. Lindsey Graham represents the legal and institutional face of the operation—the bit-by-bit bending of the norms until they break. Franklin Graham represents the even more appalling “religious” side of the racket, under which Donald Fucking Trump, serial liar and cheater and adulterer and who knows what else, is Jesus Christ’s designated agent on earth. I actually hope Graham and his ilk are right that Jesus will return one of these days. If he does, and if he’s the Jesus they taught me about when I was a kid, they’re in for a shock.

* This article has been updated because the 11th Circuit granted Graham’s emergency request late on Sunday.