Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks with reporters as he leaves the Senate Republicans' policy lunch on June 16, 2015.
Photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty

Lindsey Graham: If Trump fires Mueller, it might be impeachable

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has some experience when it comes to presidential impeachment. Twenty years ago, when Republicans impeached Bill Clinton, Graham was a member of the House Judiciary Committee and was one of the impeachment “managers” who made the case for removing the president from office.

This came to mind hearing the South Carolina senator broach the same subject this morning.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Tuesday said that it would “probably” be an impeachable offense if President Donald Trump fired special counsel Robert Mueller “without cause.”

“If the President fired Robert Mueller, do you think that would be an impeachable offense?” conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt asked the senator in an interview.

“Probably so, if he did it without cause, yeah,” Graham replied.

Asked to explain why, the Republican added, “Well, I think what the President will have done is stopped an investigation into whether or not his campaign colluded with the Russians, what effect the Russians had on the 2016 campaign. I can’t see it being anything other than a corrupt purpose.”

According to the online transcript, Graham went on to say, “I can’t think of a more upsetting moment in the rule of law to have an investigator looking at a president’s campaign as to whether or not they colluded with a foreign government, what kind of crimes may have been committed. I’ve seen no evidence of collusion, but to stop investigation without cause, I think, would be a constitutional crisis.”

When Hewitt asked whether he’s communicated that message to the president, Graham replied, “I think I just did.”

The GOP lawmaker said over the weekend that if Trump were to fire the special counsel, “that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency, because we’re a rule-of-law nation.” This morning’s comments seemed quite a bit more serious.

And while it’s certainly notable when a senator starts using the “i” word in reference to a president of his or her own party, I wouldn’t get too excited just yet.

For one thing, Trump may not fire the special counsel. The president and his team certainly sent some alarming signals over the weekend, launching a new rhetorical offensive against Mueller, but we don’t yet know what will come of this.

Second, there’s little to suggest Lindsey Graham speaks for his party on this. On the contrary, most Republican leaders responded to Trump’s weekend escalation with shrugged shoulders, and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters this morning that he still doesn’t see any need for new legislation to shield Mueller’s probe from White House interference.

I suspect Trump will hear about Graham’s comments, but is there any reason to believe the president will fear such a dramatic consequence? I rather doubt it.

And finally, if Graham believes Trump shouldn’t try to stop an investigation by firing a leading law-enforcement official for “corrupt” reasons, perhaps someone can refer the senator to Trump’s interview last year with NBC News’ Lester Holt? Because if memory serves, the president admitted that he fired then-FBI Director James Comey in order to interfere with the investigation into the Russia scandal – something Trump soon after bragged about to Russian officials.

Donald Trump, Impeachment and Lindsey Graham

Lindsey Graham: If Trump fires Mueller, it might be impeachable