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Lindsey Graham prepared to ignore Mueller report's findings

When Bill Clinton was accused of obstruction, Lindsey Graham offered a passionate defense of bedrock principles. Twenty years later, he no longer cares.
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham talks to a reporter as he arrives at Capitol Hill in Washington U.S. on May 10, 2016. (Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters)
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham talks to a reporter as he arrives at Capitol Hill in Washington U.S. on May 10, 2016.

The Atlantic published an interesting piece this morning from J. W. Verret, a Republican law professor at George Mason University, who spent a few months serving on Donald Trump's transition team in 2016. Verret, who's also worked with Marco Rubio, Mitt Romney, and the Republican-led House Financial Services Committee, spent the weekend reading Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report -- twice.

After he was done, the professor "realized that enough was enough," and he "needed to do something." That "something," it turns out, was Verret's call for impeachment proceedings against the president.

"Politics is a team sport, and if you actively work within a political party, there is some expectation that you will follow orders and rally behind the leader, even when you disagree," he wrote. "There is a point, though, at which that expectation turns from a mix of loyalty and pragmatism into something more sinister, a blind devotion that serves to enable criminal conduct."

Verret added that Mueller's findings were his "tipping point."

It may be tempting to think Verret won't have to stand alone among his GOP brethren. After all, everyone can read the same redacted version of the Mueller report and see for themselves the alleged crimes that the special counsel and his team uncovered. Surely there are still many principled Republicans willing to break with a president accused of felonies, right?

Not necessarily.

Senate Republicans say it's time to move on from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.While House Democrats are ramping up their investigations of President Donald Trump and asking that Mueller testify, Senate Republicans say they don't see the need to follow up on the Mueller report or bring him before their committees."I'm all good, I'm done with the Mueller report," said Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham in an interview with CNN in South Carolina. "We will have (Attorney General William) Barr come in and tell us about what he found. I made sure that Mueller was able to do his job without interference. The Mueller report is over for me. Done."

Graham is not just a random observer in this process.

On the contrary, the South Carolina Republican, who's up for re-election next year in his ruby-red state, is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In the abstract, Graham should care deeply about the investigation into the Russia scandal and the special counsel's findings. It's his job to care.

But Trump is a Republican, and for Graham, little else seems to matter. The senator is likely aware of the fact that Mueller offered detailed assessments of Trump meeting the statutory threshold for criminal obstruction, but Graham was nevertheless comfortable declaring himself "done."

This is, of course, the same Lindsey Graham who had a very different perspective in 1999, when he voted to impeach Bill Clinton for obstruction of justice, and then pleaded with senators to remove that Democratic president from office.

Graham declared his passionate commitment to certain principles at the time. "You don't even have to be convicted of a crime to lose your job in this constitutional republic if this body [the Senate] determines that your conduct as a public official is clearly out of bounds in your role," the GOP lawmaker said 20 years ago, "because impeachment is not about punishment. Impeachment is about cleansing the office. Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office."

What Graham neglected to mention is that he doesn't believe in applying those standards to members of his own party.