Graham: Trump would make mistake in not punishing Russia

Graham: Trump would make mistake in not punishing Russia
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Hours before President-elect Donald Trump takes the oath of office, Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Campaign Report: Arizona shifts towards Biden | Biden prepares for drive-in town hall | New Biden ad targets Latino voters Senate Democrats' campaign arm announces seven-figure investment to boost Graham challenger Graham: Comey to testify about FBI's Russia probe, Mueller declined invitation MORE (R-S.C.) warned that failing to punish Russia for interfering in the U.S. election would be “the biggest mistake of his young presidency.”

“If we don’t punish Russia, others will do it. It was Democrats today, it could be Republicans tomorrow. And I‘m going to try to rally the Senate the best I can to punish [Russian President Vladimir] Putin more and not forgive him,” Graham, who briefly ran for president in 2016, said in an interview with The Hill.

“If President TrumpDonald John TrumpHR McMaster says president's policy to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is 'unwise' Cast of 'Parks and Rec' reunite for virtual town hall to address Wisconsin voters Biden says Trump should step down over coronavirus response MORE tries to forgive and forget, that would be the biggest mistake of his young presidency,” Graham continued. “It would be worst than drawing the red line against Assad and doing nothing about it.”

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That’s a reference to President Obama warning that if Syrian President Bashar Assad crossed a “red line” and used chemical weapons, the U.S. would retaliate with military force. Assad did use chemical weapons in attacks that killed and severely injured civilians, but Obama did not deploy military force, instead asking Congress for authorization, which he did not receive.

As he made his way to the inauguration in the Capitol, Graham said there was no question in his mind that Russia had tried to interfere with the presidential election by hacking emails from the Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillicon Valley: FBI chief says Russia is trying to interfere in election to undermine Biden | Treasury Dept. sanctions Iranian government-backed hackers The Hill's Campaign Report: Arizona shifts towards Biden | Biden prepares for drive-in town hall | New Biden ad targets Latino voters FBI chief says Russia is trying to interfere in election to undermine Biden MORE campaign and the Democratic National Committee, among others.

Graham, an outspoken member of the Armed Services Committee, vowed to rally both GOP and Democratic senators to take sanctions and other measures against Russia.

“Here’s what I hope to do: unite as many members of the Senate as possible around the idea that you can’t forget Russia for trying to undermine our democracy. They did try to do it. Trump won, but Russia interfered,” Graham said.

But Graham made clear he believed the Russia hacking did not influence the outcome of the election.

“I have no doubt in my mind Trump won and Clinton lost because of the campaigns. He was just so in touch with change and he was, and a lot of people voted against her and not for Trump,” Graham said.

Inauguration Day, he said, “gives us a chance to do something we haven’t done in a long time — to come together and fight back against a common enemy. The common enemy of Republicans and Democrats is foreign entities who try to disrupt and undermine the democratic process."

“To Republicans who are gleeful about Wikileaks, you have lost your way.”