Republican presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks during the Sunshine Summit conference being held at the Rosen Shingle Creek on Nov. 13, 2015 in Orlando, Fla.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty

Asked about evidence of obstruction, Graham says, ‘I don’t care’

Updated

When Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was Rep. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), he helped lead the impeachment effort against then-President Bill Clinton. In the process, the Republican lawmaker established a series of principles he said he believed in, setting benchmarks for lines a president cannot and should not cross.

The trouble, of course, is that Graham has appeared eager of late to ignore those same principles now that there’s a member of his own party in the Oval Office.

On “Face the Nation” yesterday, CBS News’ Margaret Brennan presented the senator with some of his previous statements, leading Graham to try and draw a distinction between Clinton and Donald Trump: “What President Clinton did was interfere in a lawsuit against him by Paula Jones and others; hide the evidence; encourage people to lie. So to me he took the legal system and turned it upside down.”

Of course, this wasn’t exactly helpful to Trump or those eager to carry his water. To read the Mueller report is to know that the current president also took a wide variety of steps to interfere with a federal investigation, including lying and encouraging others to lie.

And yet, Graham quite literally said he doesn’t care.

“I think it’s just all theater. It doesn’t matter. I don’t care what he said to [former White House counsel] Don McGahn. It’s what he did…. I don’t care what they talked about. He didn’t do anything…. I don’t care what happened between him and Don McGahn.”

Despite the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Graham, added that he considers obstruction allegations against the president to be “absurd.”

Or put another way, as of yesterday morning, if a Democratic president interferes in a lawsuit and encourages people to lie, that’s an impeachable offense. If a Republican president interferes in a federal investigation and encourages people to lie, that’s trivia – according to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

It’s an amazing perspective. Graham didn’t say this explicitly, but the unmistakable takeaway is that he believes Trump attempted to obstruct justice,  but he failed to actually do so. The president told the White House counsel to fire the special counsel and lie about it, but since Don McGahn didn’t execute Trump’s wishes, then the whole sordid mess is just “theater.”

I’ll leave it to lawyers to speak to this with more authority, but as best as I can tell, this isn’t how the system is supposed to work. Attempting to interfere with a criminal investigation is itself evidence of obstruction. McGahn’s willingness to ignore a president’s corrupt instructions does not let that president off the hook.

South Carolina’s senior senator, however, has left no doubt that he simply does not care, despite the principles he said he cared about when there was a Democrat in the White House. The Washington Post’s James Downie added, “Graham is far from the first hypocritical politician. But the South Carolina senator particularly prides himself on being no-nonsense and on his legal experience. That he has opted for such an obvious double standard is especially shameless.”