Senate

Graham invokes McCain in latest call to take out Putin

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) speaks to reporters during a press conference with other Republican senators to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Wednesday, March 2, 2022.
Anna Rose Layden

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) invoked the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in his latest call for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be assassinated.

Asked during a press conference on Wednesday if he stands by his call for Putin to be assassinated, Graham said “yeah, I hope he will be taken out one way or the other,” before claiming that McCain would agree if he were alive to witness Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I don’t care how they take him out. I don’t care if we send him to the Hague and try him. I just want him to go. Yes, I’m on record,” Graham said. “And if John McCain were here, he’d be saying the same thing, I think.”

Graham and McCain were longtime friends while serving in Congress together, a relationship the South Carolina Republican has called upon in the years after McCain’s death. Conservative pundit and the daughter of the late senator, Meghan McCain, however, has knocked Graham in the past for discussing her father.

In October, the younger McCain said Graham “may consider himself a member of my family, but he is not and hasn’t been for a very long time,” after the South Carolina senator discussed who was invited to her father’s funeral in 2018.

Graham sparked criticism earlier this month when he called for “somebody in Russia” to take out Putin, adding that such a move would be “a great service” to Moscow and the world.

Figures across the aisle denounced Graham’s comments — Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called the plea “an exceptionally bad idea,” and White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Graham’s remarks did not represent “the position of the United States government” and were “certainly not a statement you’d hear come from the mouth of anybody in this administration.”

The South Carolina Republican on Wednesday called Putin a “war criminal,” before saying he wished someone had assassinated Adolf Hitler in the years leading up to the Second World War.

“It’s time for him to go,” Graham said of Putin. “He’s a war criminal. I wish somebody had taken Hitler out in the 30s. So yes, that Vladimir Putin is not a legitimate leader, he is a war criminal, he needs to be dealt with by the Russian people.”

The senator noted that he was “not asking to invade Russia to take him out” or “send American ground forces in Ukraine to fight the Russian army,” but instead encouraging Russian individuals “to rise up and end this reign of terror for you and the world at large.”

“That if you follow Putin, you’re gonna have zero future,” he added.

Graham said he believes “the world is better off without Putin,” adding “the sooner the better, and I don’t care how we do it.”

The South Carolina Republican’s remarks came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the U.S. Congress Wednesday morning and pleaded for help in responding to Russia’s invasion. Zelensky specifically implored the U.S. to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which the Biden administration has been hesitant to do out of fear that enforcing such a zone could escalate fighting between Russia and the U.S. and NATO.

Tags Jen Psaki John McCain Lindsey Graham Meghan McCain Russia-Ukraine conflict Ted Cruz Vladimir Putin

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