As Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) gets ready to take the reins as chair the Senate Judiciary Committee, he spoke with Fox News' Sean Hannity this week about his plans for the new year -- specifically as to the kind of issues Graham is prepared to investigate. From the Lexis-Nexis transcript:
"You know, to my Democratic friends, if you want to look backwards, we are all going to look backwards. I want to know why the FBI reached to the conclusion along with the Department of Justice that Hillary Clinton didn't commit a crime. Was it because of political bias? [...]"Did the Department of Justice and the FBI use a document paid for by the Democratic Party? Research by foreign agents to get a warrant against an American citizen that was inappropriate, potentially unlawful? [...]"We need a special counsel to look at all of this. But I intend to look at it. I'm going to look at it. If you are going to keep plowing everything up in 2016, count me in. If you want to look for it, I will look for it."
To unpack this a bit, Graham is describing a handful of interconnected conspiracy theories, including his belief that the Justice Department overlooked Hillary Clinton's crimes -- a rather ridiculous idea already discredited by the DOJ's inspector general -- coupled with similarly odd ideas about the "Steele dossier" and surveillance of Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser.
Graham, evidently, is prepared to use the Senate Judiciary Committee to scrutinize all of this, for reasons that only appear to have merit with the most rabid of partisans.
But what struck me as especially notable about this was the way in which Graham presented this agenda as something of a threat.
Note, the GOP senator -- who seems to be enjoying his status as a partisan celebrity a bit too much -- didn't just talk about his Clinton-related conspiracy theories in their own right; he did so as a message to his "Democratic friends."
If they "want to look backwards" -- which is to say, if they're prepared to examine Russia's attack on our election in order to help the Kremlin's preferred candidate -- then Lindsey Graham will do the same. If those rascally Dems "are going to keep plowing everything up," then the South Carolinian wants them to know he's prepared to scrutinize recent history, too.
The implication seems to be that if Democrats don't "look backwards," and they don't investigate matters such as Putin's efforts to put Trump in power, Lindsey Graham will be less eager to investigate Clinton-related conspiracy theories.
"If you want to look for it," Graham said in his message to Democrats, referring to 2016, "I will look for it."
The larger question is, why is the senator -- who's become one of Donald Trump's more sycophantic allies -- so worried about Democrats examining the Russia scandal?
* Update: This morning, Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) announced he's stepping down as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, clearing the way for Graham to claim the gavel. I've updated the text of this piece to reflect the change.