Lindsey Graham jumps to Trump’s defence over hush money trial: ‘I think the whole thing is a crock’

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham leapt to Donald Trump’s defence on Sunday as he dismissed the former president’s New York hush money trial, saying “I think the whole thing is a crock”.

The longtime Trump ally appeared on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday where he railed against the trial and branded the former president’s long list of legal woes as examples of “selective prosecution” – but declined to say that he should have full immunity from criminal prosecution.

Host Dana Bash confronted Mr Graham about the testimony heard in court last week from former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker. Mr Pecker testified about the so-called “catch and kill” scheme struck between himself, Mr Trump, and Mr Trump’s then-attorney Michael Cohen to suppress negative stories ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

“You know, apparently a lot of people do this. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tiger Woods, I think the whole thing is a crock,” Mr Graham said, pointing to the other famous names dragged into Mr Pecker’s testimony.

“The statute of limitations has long shut out the misdemeanour cases. So, this liberal prosecutor in Manhattan came up with a federal campaign violation that the Southern District of New York looked at, the Federal Elections Commission looked at, and Jack Smith looked at, and decided not to prosecute.”

Mr Trump faces 34 counts of falsifying business records over a hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election to remain quiet about an alleged 2006 affair. Mr Trump has denied the affair took place and has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The former president has frequently argued that all of the criminal charges against him are politically motivated and that they are part of a “witch hunt” by his political enemies.

While Mr Graham echoed Mr Trump’s rhetoric, he took a different stance from the former president when it came to the question of presidential immunity.

The issue of presidential immunity is now in the hands of the Supreme Court justices, who heard opposing arguments last week from attorneys for Mr Trump and attorneys for special counsel Jack Smith’s office.

In the oral arguments, Mr Trump’s lawyer said that any former president shouldn’t be charged for ordering the military to stage a coup unless they were impeached and convicted first.

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham talks to members of the media as he makes his way to the Senate chamber at the US Capitol on 23 April 2024 in Washington DC (Getty Images)
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham talks to members of the media as he makes his way to the Senate chamber at the US Capitol on 23 April 2024 in Washington DC (Getty Images)

Mr Graham didn’t appear to agree with the former president’s legal team on the matter.

“I think the court is going to find that presidential immunity exists for President Trump like every other president, but you got to be within the scope of being president,” Mr Graham said.

“I think they'll send it back to the lower courts to find out exactly what actions fall within presidential immunity and what [is] considered personal. I think that's the way this will end. It will be some immunity for some of the actions.”

“There's no absolute immunity in the Constitution,” he added.

“It will be a legal analysis – the president needs to be protected [to ensure] we don't become a Banana Republic, where we prosecute our political opponents, which is going on in many jurisdictions,” Mr Graham said. “But I think the immunity question will be decided partially for Trump.”

“Why don’t you ask me ... if he’s convicted in any of these trials, would it change my view? No. I think all these trials are political. I think it’s selective prosecution. I think what’s going on in New York is an outrage,” he said. “The case is eight years ago. They created a crime just for Trump. I think it’s selective prosecution for political purposes.”

The Republican senator went on to argue that the American people are more worried about their own problems than any legal problems Mr Trump may have.

“I think most Americans are not going to decide how to vote based on Trump’s legal troubles, but the troubles they face, inflation, crime, a broken border ... People are looking at their problems, not Trump’s legal problems,” he said.

“They’re going to focus on their problems, not a bunch of cases brought by liberals against Trump,” he added.