Sen. Lindsey Graham said Tuesday that reports that President Donald Trump personally dictated his son’s misleading statement regarding a meeting last summer with a Russian attorney “bothers me a lot,” as do the president’s regular requests that the Senate do away with the legislative filibuster, a non-starter according to the South Carolina lawmaker.
Still, Graham (R-S.C.) indicated that the possibility still existed for Trump’s presidency to “still be very consequential” if the president is able to refocus on healthcare and other legislative priorities.
“It bothers me a lot because, one, he put his son in jeopardy,” Graham said on NBC’s “Today” show of a Monday Washington Post report that Trump had reportedly dictated his son Donald Trump Jr.’s statement explaining his meeting last summer with a Russian lawyer who he had been led to believe was in possession of Russian government-sourced damaging information on Democrat Hillary Clinton.
That initial statement from Trump Jr. first indicated that the meeting had been about adoption issues related to sanctions imposed on Russia by the U.S. But Trump Jr. was later forced to concede that he took the meeting based on the promise of information on Clinton when emails related to the meeting were published.
An outside lawyer for the president had previously said Trump had no role in drafting his son’s statement and characterized the assertions in the Post’s report as “misinformed, inaccurate, and not pertinent.”
“If that’s true then that was a bad decision by the president which will make us ask more questions,” Graham said. “When you get caught in a lie about one thing it makes it hard to just say ‘let the other stuff go.’”
Aside from the Russia issue, Graham said Trump’s calls for the Senate to do away with its 60-vote filibuster threshold for legislation will fall on deaf ears on Capitol Hill. The president has repeatedly suggested that Senate Republicans move to a simple majority in order to pass legislation, a step he has said is necessary to accomplish his long list of policy goals.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has vowed that he will not change the Senate rules to remove the filibuster. Graham, too, said the Senate would be unmoved by the president’s demands.
“We are not going to change the rules of the Senate because he tells us to. We’re not going to deal out our Democratic colleagues,” Graham said. “For 200 years the minority has had a voice in the senate. I don’t want to become the House. I’ve been in the House, I love it, but I’m not going to change 200 years of history because Donald Trump’s mad.”
Graham expressed optimism that the installation of retired Marine Corps general John Kelly as White House chief of staff would inject a dose of military discipline into the West Wing. The South Carolina senator, who served in the Air Force, South Carolina Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserves, said the window for Trump to accomplish his major policy goals is not closed, but he must “focus like a laser” on healthcare and other items on his agenda.
“I think he’s done some things that most — that to me are unpresidential but it’s not hopeless,” Graham said. “His presidency can still be very consequential, but Gen. Kelly was probably the best choice available to him. He is a good man. Listen to him.”