'People are frustrated,' Lindsey Graham says after angry airport crowd calls him 'traitor'
Lindsey Graham thanked police and expressed sympathy with those frustrated by President Donald Trump's defeat a day after being harangued by an angry crowd that called him a "traitor" for not trying to block the certification of the Electoral College results.
Video shared on social media Friday showed the South Carolina Republican, flanked by officers, being followed through Washington's Reagan National Airport by about a dozen people hurling insults and shouting baseless claims that the election had been fraudulent.
"Lindsey Graham, you are a traitor to the country!" a woman shouts in one of the videos.
"Hope you enjoy Gitmo!" she yells at another point. "It's going to be like this forever, wherever you go, for the rest of your life."
"Number one, I want to thank the police who came to my aid," Graham told Fox News' Sean Hannity when asked about the incident Friday night. He then went on to say that he while understood Trump supporters' disappointment, nothing could be done to alter the election outcome. And he defended his vote to certify the results.
"I know people are frustrated. I wanted President Trump to win so badly. I thought he was a consequential president. I think he made the world safer and more prosperous," Graham said. "I’m a constitutional conservative. I believe in federalism even when I don't like the outcome. There's a process under our Constitution. I followed it the best I knew how. I stand by my vote."
A spokesperson for Graham said that one video taken at the scene appeared to show that the crowd included supporters of QAnon, a group of far-right conspiracy theorists who claim Trump is the country’s savior sent to stop a “cabal” of elite pedophiles and a corrupt government.
Verified Twitter use Mindy Robinson – who unsuccessfully ran as a Republican for Nevada's 3rd Congressional District in the June 2020 primary – posted the video and wrote, "Lindsey Graham just made the mistake walking by me and a mass of angry patriots at the airport in DC. All America wants is for you to AUDIT OUR VOTE and purge this election of this massive corruption."
Another video showed the group continuing to harass the senator once he sat at his gate and as a group of men appeared to grow more agitated, Graham and his security detail began to walk away. As he left, the crowd chanted, "traitor!"
Riots broke out at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday as Congress worked to certify Electoral College results for the presidential election. It wasn't until Wednesday night that Congress reconvened to finish the certification process.
It was then when Graham decided not to object to the certification after previously stating he would "keep an open mind" about claims from Trump and others of a fraudulent election.
"All I can say is, count me out. Enough is enough," Graham said upon considering Arizona's electoral votes. "I prayed (Biden) would lose. He won. He's the legitimate president of the United States."
Graham called Trump unfit for the White House during the 2016 Republican primary campaign before becoming one of the president's most ardent supporters in the Senate once Trump took office. But Graham broke sharply with the president following Wednesday's violence.
"When it comes to accountability, the president needs to understand that his actions were the problem, not the solution," Graham said after the riot.
But Graham has since posted tweets praising the president's speech on Thursday in which he called for calm and admitted for the first time that a new administration was soon to be inaugurated. And in other tweets, he has defended Trump from efforts to hold the president accountable for his unrelenting campaign to overturn the election result and his speech on Wednesday that many believe incited the mob that stormed the Capitol.
Graham denounced the idea of impeaching Trump again, tweeting it "would not only be unsuccessful in the Senate but would be a dangerous precedent for the future of the presidency." Later Friday, he slammed tech companies for their crackdown in the wake of the riot, which has included indefinite suspensions of the president's social media accounts.
"Twitter may ban me for this but I willingly accept that fate: Your decision to permanently ban President Trump is a serious mistake," Graham posted on the president's favorite platform. "The Ayatollah can tweet, but Trump can’t. Says a lot about the people who run Twitter."
On "Hannity" Friday night, Graham implored President-elect Joe Biden to stop the movement to impeach Trump a second time, warning it would "destroy the country even further."
"You have the power to do that, the question is, do you have the courage to do it?" Graham said. "I told my supporters at home the president of the United States who I admire and supported that it was time to move on. It was over. I’m asking no more of you, President-elect Biden, than I ask of myself, pick up the phone and tell Pelosi, Schumer and the 'squad' to stand down."
"No more impeachments," Graham added, before going on to express hope Democrats would not block investigations into the president-elect's son, Hunter Biden.
Daniel J. Gross is an investigative watchdog reporter focusing on public safety and law enforcement for The Greenville News. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @danieljgross.