Trump lashes out at GOP senators, blames Lindsey Graham and Mike Lee for his failed coup attempt

Why does Donald Trump suddenly want to reignite the GOP civil war?

By Jon Skolnik
Published September 23, 2021 12:23PM (EDT)
Mike Lee, Donald Trump and Lindsey Graham (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Mike Lee, Donald Trump and Lindsey Graham (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Donald Trump blasted Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, on Wednesday, telling the Republican lawmakers they should be "ashamed" of not showing him enough fealty during his ceaseless campaign to overturn President Biden's 2020 election win. 

"I spent virtually no time with Senators Mike Lee of Utah, or Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, talking about the 2020 Presidential Election Scam or, as it is viewed by many, the 'Crime of the Century,'" Trump wrote in an email blast. "Lindsey and Mike should be ashamed of themselves for not putting up the fight necessary to win," the former president continued.

"Look at the facts that are coming out in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and other States," Trump implored without citing any facts.

His latest rant comes amid news from this week that the two senators "personally vetted" Trump's baseless claims of election fraud, according to The Washington Post, which excerpted "Peril," a forthcoming book from Post reporters Bob Costa and Bob Woodward detailing the matter. Both senators apparently involved their senior staff in efforts to probe the results of the election.


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Back in late November of last year, Graham personally called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger to "find" enough ballots to turn the tide for Trump, potentially violating federal law. Additionally, Graham and his lawyer, Lee Holmes, met multiple times with ex-Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani to discuss Trump's allegations of fraud, with Giuliani distributing the senator multiple memos on the matter. 

Meanwhile, Lee reportedly investigated the legal ability of former Vice President Mike Pence to unilaterally block Biden's certification. The Post reported that the senator made "phone call after phone call" to various state officials, though they, by and large, refused to assign alternate state electors to the election. At the time, many Trump allies told Lee the opposite – that state electors were, in fact, gearing up to be reassigned in Trump's favor. 

But Lee recalled seeing things differently.

"As we got closer and closer to Jan. 6, I became concerned because I wasn't seeing any of these developments occur but I was continuing to hear this narrative," he said at the town hall, according to Deseret News.

Ultimately, after exploring a number of different avenues for challenging the election results, both lawmakers were reportedly "unpersuaded." 

"Holmes found the sloppiness, the overbearing tone of certainty, and the inconsistencies disqualifying," the authors of "Peril" wrote. "The memos," Holmes concluded, "added up to nothing."

Two senators told The Hill on Tuesday that Graham this past weekend was attempting to play the role of "peacemaker" between Trump and Senate Minority Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has as of late fallen out of Trump's good graces. Graham was reportedly able to have Trump concede that McConnell helped him during his presidency. 

"Lindsey was with the president this last weekend. From what I understand Trump said something complimentary about Mitch," one GOP senator told The Hill.

In the past, Graham and Lee have in many ways shown great loyalty to Trump. 

Last year, Lee compared the former president Captain Moroni, a prophetic figure in the Book of Mormon. Graham likewise said that the GOP "can't grow" without Trump. But by January, after months of probing Trump's election conspiracies,  both Republicans voted to certify the election results in Biden's favor.


Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, AlterNet, and The New York Daily News.

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Brief Capitol Riot Coup Election January 6 Lindsey Lindsey Graham Mike Lee Rino Trump