Republican Presidential hopeful and U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks at an event at the National Press Club on Sept. 8, 2015 in Washington, D.C.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty

Lindsey Graham balks at measure to make Mueller report public

When it comes to controversial issues and contentious debates, congressional votes tend to be split along party lines. Yesterday, however, the House took up a resolution calling for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report to be made available to the public and Congress – and it passed 420 to zero.

The measure, which appears to have been intended to put increased pressure on Attorney General William Barr, Donald Trump’s newest cabinet member, now heads to the Senate where it’s unlikely to fare well.

That’s not just a guess. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) not only balked when Democratic leaders sought unanimous consent to approve the symbolic resolution, the South Carolinian also issued a curious press statement about his position on the matter.

“As currently constructed, I cannot support the House-passed resolution calling for the release of the Mueller report. However, I would agree to the resolution with a simple change – it be amended to call for the appointment of a Special Counsel to:

“Investigate alleged misconduct around the handling of the Clinton email investigation.

“Investigate the abuse of the FISA warrant process against Mr. Carter Page.”

Even by 2019 standards, this is pretty nutty. Graham isn’t necessarily opposed to Mueller’s work, and he’s willing to tolerate a non-binding resolution about making the special counsel’s report available to the public, but only if Congress also endorses the appointment of another special counsel who’d investigate some painfully foolish Republican conspiracy theories.

Remember, this statement wasn’t issued from some fringe backbencher who wrote a weird piece for a right-wing website; this was a press statement from the sitting chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

There’s been all kinds of speculation in recent months about what in the world happened to Lindsey Graham – a senator who tried to cultivate a reputation as a serious and constructive lawmaker who was eager to work on bipartisan compromises, but who’s since transformed into something very different. I don’t have much use for assorted conspiracy theories about Donald Trump having some damaging information on the GOP senator, forcing him to behave this way.

The truth is almost certainly simpler: many Republicans, especially those from ruby-red states, have come to believe their careers depend on fealty to Trump. Those who stray tend to lose, often in the face of primary challenges from those who swear undying allegiance to the Republican White House.

Graham will seek re-election next year, and as he recently told the New York Times, in explaining his metamorphosis, “If you don’t want to get re-elected, you’re in the wrong business.”

At some point in the future, Graham may look back on this period of his career and reflect on whether it was worth it. I wonder what he’ll say.