Sen. Lindsey Graham fired back on Wednesday at Democrats calling on him to resign following reports that he asked election officials in key swing states to intervene in the vote counting process in ways that could help President Trump.
Notably, Graham took aim at two members of the so-called Squad of freshman Democratic women — Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and a second-term House member who is frequently allied with them, Pramila Jayapal of Washington.
“It’s time for Lindsey Graham to submit his resignation,” Omar tweeted on Wednesday.
“First, Graham and Republicans fought like hell to suppress the vote. Then, Black, brown, and young voters organized and turned out in record numbers to win the state anyway. Now, he's trying to get their legally cast votes thrown out,” Jayapal wrote. “He must resign.”
Tlaib stopped short of calling for Graham to resign, but accused him of attempting “to commit voter fraud.”
“Lindsey Graham attempted to commit voter fraud. He can’t get away with it. Actions result in consequences,” Tlaib said in her own Twitter message. “This unethical and possibly illegal action from a sitting U.S. Senator demands a swift consequence. Thank you @RepJayapal for demanding it.”
On Monday, the Washington Post reported that Graham had called Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Friday seeking to have legally cast absentee ballots disqualified, which could cut into Biden’s roughly 13,000-vote lead over President Trump there.
“It was just an implication of, 'Look hard and see how many ballots you could throw out,’” Raffensperger told CNN, noting that he had no intention of honoring that request.
Officials in Georgia have been mounting a recount of the vote, but experts believe that it will not overturn Biden’s apparent win in the state.
Graham denied that he had asked Raffensperger to help secure a win for Trump in Georgia.
“I’m asking him to explain to me the system,” Graham told reporters on Capitol Hill. “If you send a mail-in ballot to a county, a single person verifies the signature against what’s in the database. They don’t mail out ballots. You got to actually request one. So they expanded mail-in voting, and how you verify the signature, to me, is the big issue of mail-in voting.”
But Graham also disclosed on Tuesday that he had spoken to Arizona’s Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, a top ally of Trump’s, about the way mail-in ballots were counted in that battleground state, and to an official in Nevada about procedures there.
Arizona and Nevada were won by Biden by fairly small margins, and the former vice president leads narrowly in Georgia, the one state that Associated Press has not yet called. The AP count shows Biden ahead of Trump by 290 to 232; the three states together have 33 Electoral College votes, so even if Trump won all three he would still be short of the 270 he needs to secure a second term.
Trump and his allies have been trying to snatch those states away from Biden through a variety of increasingly desperate gambits, in and out of courts, and mounted similar efforts in Pennsylvania and Michigan. None of those gambits seem likely to succeed. With one minor exception, Trump’s legal team has failed to prevail in any of the nearly 20 election-related cases they have brought over the last two weeks.
Graham’s actions have also caught the attention of three of the nation’s authorities on ethics in politics, who on Wednesday sent a letter to the Senate Ethics Committee chairman and vice chairman, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., seeking an investigation into what they called Graham’s suggestion that Raffensperger “disenfranchise Georgia voters.”
The letter was signed by Walter Shaub, the former federal ethics watchdog; Richard Painter, chief ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush; and Claire Finkelstein, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law.
“If these allegations are true, Senator Graham’s conduct constitutes an abuse of office and conduct unbecoming of a senator,” the letter states. “For the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to suggest to a state Secretary of State that he refrain from counting lawful votes threatens the electoral process and damages representative democracy.”
In a follow-up tweet Wednesday, Graham did not address the request for an ethics investigation. Instead, he made the dispute about partisan politics and his “liberal critics.”
“I will continue to try to find common ground where possible, but will not hesitate to vigorously oppose the radical domestic and foreign policy agenda of The Squad and other liberal critics,” Graham wrote. “To those who are trying to silence me — you will fail miserably!”
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