Graham warns of ‘riots in the streets’ if Trump is charged, accuses ‘double standard’
South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham is warning everyone that if Donald Trump is charged for the secret documents he kept at Mar-a-Lago, there will be chaos in America. In an interview with Fox News on Sunday, he said, “If they try to prosecute President Trump for mishandling classified information after Hillary Clinton set up a server in her basement, there will literally be riots in the street.”
“Our country worries me.” Graham made the point about “riots” twice. It was not a slip of the tongue; it was a point he was making. This point of discussion was not just a prediction. Also, it was a threat.
Graham is not a neutral social scientist who is trying to predict what will happen with the Trump movement. He is a powerful conservative politician and one of the most influential Trump supporters on Capitol Hill. He was talking to the most influential conservative news outlet in the country.
Even though he said he was “worried” about the country as a whole, he did not say anything wrong about the idea of the riots he said would happen if Trump was indicted. And his comments about starting riots put the blame on the Justice Department instead of on the man who took sensitive documents and ran away to Mar-a-Lago. This man has a history of abusing his power in terrible ways.
It should not come as a surprise that Trump shared Graham’s comments right away on his failing social media site, Truth Social. Trump picked up on what Graham was saying: that the Justice Department should be afraid of the backlash that could happen if they charge him with breaking federal criminal laws.
If this hypothetical indictment leads to a hypothetical conviction, the former president could spend decades in federal prison. This is a very scary thought for the former president.
Graham’s claims that the Justice Department treats Trump and Clinton differently are not convincing because, among other things, Clinton, the former secretary of state and 2016 presidential candidate, helped the investigation into her personal server, which meant that a search was not needed.
And the fact that the FBI’s investigation of Clinton, which experts say broke more rules than the Trump investigation has so far, helped Trump win the election should remind us that the FBI is not a biased, anti-Trump organization. He does not care about the flaws in Graham’s analogy, though.
Trump and his allies want to spread self-fulfilling warnings of chaos and a high political cost for the federal law enforcement system in the U.S. The Justice Department knows that its investigation is very political, and any decision to press charges would involve weighing the social and political costs.
If the right-wing story that the Justice Department is a monster from the deep state that wants to kill freedom spreads, these costs will go up. The department’s reputation as a fair judge would be at risk. And even though it is not the Justice Department’s job to think about how its decisions might help a more powerful proto-fascist movement grow, it is hard to believe that it doesn’t.
(Of course, as I have said, if the president does not act just because he is afraid of the consequences, it could set a dangerous precedent for the president’s power to break the law.) Graham and the GOP’s plan to make the Justice Department too scared to enforce the law could work, and even if they have a strong case against Trump, the department might decide not to charge him.
In the process, people on the right like Graham will have planted the seeds for Trump’s possible third presidential run to be even more authoritarian and lawless. Maybe the saddest thing about all of this is how often the Republican Party misses a chance to get rid of Trump.
If right-wing media and politicians did not see the FBI’s actions as Stalinist overreach, but as a possible case against a man who has a history of abusing power in crazy ways, this could help clear the field for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or another Trump opponent in 2024. But once again, it is clear that many of the GOP does not see what is wrong with Trump. Instead, it is willing to help him get back into power by supporting a project that could lead to violence.