Graham on Mueller: I don't care about the obstruction of justice stuff

Graham on Mueller: I don't care about the obstruction of justice stuff
© Greg Nash

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Graham: Senate trial 'must expose the whistleblower' Graham says Schiff should be a witness in Trump impeachment trial MORE (R-S.C.), a close ally of President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes MORE, says he never took seriously the possible charges of obstruction of justice raised by special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' MORE’s report.

Graham says he was more concerned about charges that Trump and his senior advisers may have colluded with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign, something that Mueller’s report failed to find.

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“I didn’t care about the obstruction of justice stuff. What I cared about was were you working with the Russians?” Graham told reporters Thursday in response to a question about whether he thought there were any significant findings in the Mueller report.

Graham’s statement reflects the views of other Republicans that Trump can’t be impeached for obstruction of justice if the special counsel failed to find an underlying crime.

Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrBarr: Inspector general's report on alleged FISA abuses 'imminent' DOJ unveils program aimed at reducing gun violence Trump goes on tweeting offensive ahead of public impeachment hearing MORE wrote in a letter to Congress in March that the lack of evidence showing that Trump was “involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference” weighed heavily on his determination that the president was not guilty of obstructing justice.

The findings of the Mueller report are getting a second look on Capitol Hill after the decision by Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: Trump officials making changes to drug pricing proposal | House panel advances flavored e-cig ban | Senators press FDA tobacco chief on vaping ban Speaker Pelosi, it's time to throw American innovators a lifeline Why Americans must tune in to the Trump impeachment hearings MORE (D-Calif.) to launch a formal impeachment inquiry in the House. House Democrats are most focused, however, on allegations that Trump pressed Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes 2020 Dems put focus on stemming veteran suicides MORE for his own political gain, and whether he withheld aid to that country. 

Graham, who served as a prosecutor in the Senate’s 1999 impeachment trial of then President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Biden, Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, Harris lead Trump in Georgia: Poll Keep your eye on essential facts in the unfolding impeachment circus MORE, says the Democrats’ impeachment push against Trump is bogus.

“There is no high crime or misdemeanor from the Mueller report and this whole transcript is a joke,” Graham said Thursday, arguing that neither Mueller’s 448-page report nor a transcript of Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky provide grounds for impeachment proceedings.

Graham said if Mueller found that Trump or his senior advisers colluded with Russia, it would have been a deal-breaker. But he noted that was not found to be true after an exhaustive investigation.

“I’ve told him to his face that if you’re working with the Russians, that would be it for you with me,” Graham said of his conversations with the president. “I’ve said that to the whole world. I didn’t know what Mueller was going to find. I supported the Mueller investigation to its completion.

“If there had been real collusion between Trump and the Russians to get an advantage over his opponent, that would have been disqualifying,” Graham said of the 2016 election. “I think all this other stuff is politically driven.”