Lindsey Graham squirms when confronted with double standard on Clinton and Trump impeachments

Lindsey Graham was challenged by Chris Wallace on his double standard on impeaching Bill Clinton and Donald Trump

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published May 27, 2019 12:30PM (EDT)

Lindsey Graham (Getty/Chip Somodevilla)
Lindsey Graham (Getty/Chip Somodevilla)

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., squirmed when Chris Wallace of "Fox News Sunday" asked him about a seeming double standard in how he reacted to the possibility of President Bill Clinton being impeached for defying congressional subpoenas in the 1990s and how he is reacting to President Donald Trump doing the same thing twenty years later.

"At that time you said that any president, and you talked specifically about Clinton and Richard Nixon, who defied Congress when it came to subpoenas was in danger of impeachment. Here you are back then," Wallace told Graham before setting up a clip of a speech that Graham delivered during the Clinton scandals of the 1990s.

"You are becoming the judge and jury," Graham chided the White House on the Senate floor in that speech. "It is not your job to tell us what we need. It is your job to comply with the things to provide oversight over you."

Wallace then asked Graham, "Question: Why is it an impeachable offense for Clinton or Nixon back then to ignore congressional subpoenas, but it's okay for President Trump to do now?"

Graham squirmed uncomfortably as he attempted to reply.

"Well there's two things here. The Mueller investigation was a special counsel appointed to find out if the president committed a crime, if he colluded with the Russians, if he obstructed justice. The president gave him 1.4 million documents to Mueller. Everybody around the president was allowed to testify. He never claimed executive privilege. He complied, no cover up, worked with Mueller, Mueller is the final word on this for me. So if Clinton had stiffed Ken Starr, that's different," Graham told Wallace. The South Carolina senator then deflected to attacking House Democrats for investigating the president.

"What Nadler is doing is trying to destroy the president and his family," Graham told Wallace. "If I were the president I'd fight back against this political revenge coming out of the House. Mueller was a man of the law. Mueller was an independent voice that we all trusted to be fair. I don't trust House Democrats to be fair. They're trying to redo the Mueller report, they're trying to make up other stuff. And at the end of the day, it will be political suicide for them to impeach. If I were the president, I would fight Nadler tooth and nail. I'm glad he cooperated with Mueller. That's the difference."

Although Graham has recently become one of Trump's most outspoken defenders, for a period of time he was viewed as one of the few Republicans willing to stand up to the president. During the 2016 presidential election he denounced the president as a "race-baiting xenophobic bigot" and warned Republican primary voters that if they nominated Trump "we will get destroyed … and we will deserve it." He also stood up to Trump at the time on matters like hiring a special counsel and American policy in Saudi Arabia. In recent months, however, Graham has by and large become one of his most outspoken defenders, most likely because Trump remains very popular in South Carolina.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012, was a guest on Fox Business in 2019, repeatedly warned of Trump's impending refusal to concede during the 2020 election, spoke at the Commonwealth Club of California in 2021, was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022 and appeared on NPR in 2023. His diverse interests are reflected in his interviews including: President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (1997-2001), director Jason Reitman ("The Front Runner"), inventor Ernő Rubik, comedian Bill Burr ("F Is for Family"), novelist James Patterson ("The President's Daughter"), epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, voice actor Rob Paulsen ("Animaniacs"), mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei ("Star Trek"), climatologist Michael E. Mann, World War II historian Joshua Levine (consultant to "Dunkirk"), Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (2013-present), dog cognition researcher Alexandra Horowitz, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson (2012, 2016), comedian and writer Larry Charles ("Seinfeld"), seismologist John Vidale, Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI"), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), Senator Martin Heinrich (2013-present), Egyptologist Richard Parkinson, Rep. Eric Swalwell (2013-present), Fox News host Tucker Carlson, actor R. J. Mitte ("Breaking Bad"), theoretical physicist Avi Loeb, biologist and genomics entrepreneur William Haseltine, comedian David Cross ("Scary Movie 2"), linguistics consultant Paul Frommer ("Avatar"), Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (2007-2015), computer engineer and Internet co-inventor Leonard Kleinrock and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.

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All Salon Bill Clinton Chris Wallace Donald Trump Impeachment Lindsey Graham News & Politics