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Graham: Republicans supporting Trump impeachment damaging GOP
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Wednesday criticized a bipartisan effort to impeach President Trump, and argued that Republican lawmakers who support it will be hurting their own party.
Graham, who has been aligned closely with President Trump for most of the past four years, said the mob that stormed the Capitol last week should be held accountable, but that Republicans should not support impeachment.
"To my Republican colleagues who legitimize this process, you are doing great damage not only to the country, the future of the presidency, but also to the party. ... The individuals who participated in the storming of the Capitol should be met with the full force of the law. They should and will be held accountable," Graham said in the statement.
In addition to releasing a public statement, Graham has been privately calling his colleagues for several days urging them to oppose convicting Trump as part of the Senate trial, a spokesperson confirmed to The Hill.
"This was his own initiative, not a specific request from the White House," the spokesperson added.
Graham's efforts come as the House is poised to vote Wednesday to impeach Trump for the second time of his presidency - a historical first. The article of impeachment accuses Trump of committing high crimes and misdemeanors by "willfully inciting violence against the Government of the United States."
Trump, in a speech outside the White House last week, falsely claimed that he had won the election and urged thousands of his fans to march to the Capitol to support his GOP allies, using phrases like "you have to show strength" and "if you don't fight like hell you're not going to have a country anymore."
A handful of House Republicans - including Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the No. 3 House Republican - are expected to support impeaching Trump over his rhetoric before the ensuing violence, where five people died, including a Capitol Police officer.
No Senate Republican has said, yet, that they will vote to convict Trump as part of a Senate trial. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) has said he is open to considering whatever articles the House sends over and Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) have called on Trump to resign.
Several other GOP senators have said they believe Trump bears some of the responsibility for the storming of the Capitol, after making false claims for weeks that the election was "rigged" and whipping up his supporters before they marched on the building.
In a seismic shift within the party, Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-Ky.) has reportedly told confidants that he believes Trump committed impeachable offenses. Sources told The Hill that while McConnell has made it clear that he's done with Trump he hasn't said if he will ultimately vote to convict him.
Graham voted against efforts by his GOP colleagues to challenge the election results last week and warned that he believed Trump's legacy had been "tarnished."
But he's also warned repeatedly against moving forward with the impeachment effort, underscoring the divisions among Republicans that are being pushed to the forefront. Though several Republicans have spoken out against impeachment, many have remained silent - a U-turn from the 2020 impeachment trial where most Republicans were united against convicting Trump before the trial started.
Graham didn't mention McConnell by name in his statement but said that "as to Senate leadership, I fear they are making the problem worse, not better."
"The last thing the country needs is an impeachment trial of a president who is leaving office in one week," he said.
--Updated at 1:44 p.m.