Graham says he’s talked to officials in two states about election

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Tuesday that he spoke with election officials in Arizona and Nevada, a day after a top election official in Georgia accused him of trying to meddle in the election. 

“I talked to Arizona. I talked to Nevada. Voting by mail is going to be more, not less. How you validate signatures is really important,” Graham told reporters.

Asked in what capacity he was reaching out to the state officials, Graham said any senator could reach out. 

“As a United States senator who is worried about the integrity of the election process nationally, when it comes to vote by mail,” he said. 

After Graham told reporters that he spoke with election officials, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) said on Twitter that Graham had not spoken with her

Nevada’s Republican secretary of state, Barbara Cegavske, also said in a statement that she has not spoken with Graham or any other member of Congress about the election.

Graham clarified that he spoke with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R). He said he could not remember who he spoke with in Nevada.

“What I’m trying to find out is how do you verify mail-in ballots,” Graham said. “The question I have is who verifies the signature and if it’s a single individual, I don’t like that. I think it should be bipartisan.” 

The disclosure that Graham had spoken with officials in two states comes after he sparked backlash from Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who said on Monday that Republican leaders such as Graham have been putting pressure on him to exclude legal ballots in order for President Trump to be declared the winner and earn the state’s 16 electoral votes.

Graham denied that allegation on Monday, telling reporters: “That’s just ridiculous.”

“If he feels threatened by that conversation, he’s got a problem. I actually thought it was a good conversation,” Graham added.

A Raffensperger staffer told CNN that he participated in the phone call between Graham and Raffensperger and said  that he heard Graham ask if state officials could throw out ballots.

Graham has undergone a political transformation under Trump’s presidency, going from one of his fiercest critics in 2015 to one of his most vocal supporters in the wake of the president’s 2016 White House win. 

Graham has echoed Trump’s concerns about potential fraud in key states where the president is trailing President-elect Joe Biden. Election experts have denied that an increase in mail-in voting leads to widespread fraud, and Trump’s legal team has had a series of setbacks in court. 

Graham on Tuesday said that now was the time for Trump’s team to show proof of voter irregularities. 

“You know, there may be proof, I don’t know. But it’s kind of time now to show it in a court of law. We are at the point now where recounts are going on and it’s now time to put it up,” Graham said.

Asked what standard he was using in his mind for when he would accept Biden as the president-elect, Graham added: “When Trump concedes or the court cases have been dismissed and the states certified.”

Democrats have stopped short of directly criticizing Graham, noting that it’s hard to read into his intentions without knowledge of the conversations.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who previously served as the attorney general of Connecticut, stopped short of criticizing Graham. 

“I’m not going to pass judgment on what he is doing because I don’t know exactly what he is doing. It really depends upon what he said. But I’m going to certainly presume he was careful to avoid any violation of law. But the judgment should be made by people who know exactly what he said,” Blumenthal said. 

Blumenthal added that “the wonderful thing about being a state elected official, as I recall well, is you don’t have to give a hoot what a United States senator says to you.” 

“If all he’s trying to do is get information, people are entitled to do that. If he’s trying to influence the way they do their duties, that becomes a bit problematic. And without knowing what was said, I can’t tell which is which,” added Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

–Updated at 1:34 p.m.

Tags 2020 election Arizona Donald Trump Doug Ducey Joe Biden Lindsey Graham mail-in voting Nevada Sheldon Whitehouse

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