Jan 7, 2021
Lindsey Graham Press Conference on Capitol Riot Transcript January 7
Senator Lindsey Graham held a press conference on January 7 to address the riot at the Capitol. He said: “Yesterday, the Capitol of the United States was taken over by domestic terrorists that are not patriots.” He also addressed the certification of the electoral votes. Read the transcript of the briefing here.
Lindsey Graham: (00:37)
There he goes. All good. All good. So as you can imagine, everybody in politics and at the federal level was asked a lot of questions by people in the media. What was yesterday like? What does it all mean? Rather than doing a bunch of interviews, I thought I’d give my view of what happened yesterday and the way forward for the country and try to get back to South Carolina and help the transition here.
Lindsey Graham: (01:02)
The first thing that stands out to me is how embarrassed and disgusted I am that the United States Capitol could be taken over by domestic terrorists while we’re in session, transferring power from one president to the other, that a band of people who are terrorists, not patriots, literally occupied the floor of the House, drove the Senate out of its chamber. And the question for the country is how could that happen 20 years after 9/11? September this year will be the 20th anniversary of the attack on our nation. It is mind boggling that such an event could occur.
Lindsey Graham: (01:46)
Senator Schumer’s called for the Sergeant of Arms of the Senate to resign. I echo that. Anyone in charge of defending the Capitol failed in their duties. If they would have been in the military, they had been relieved of their commands and most likely court marshaled. So the first thing that has to happen is to hold those accountable for failing to defend the nation’s Capitol while the Congress was in session. Why am I worried? It would have been so easy for a terrorist organization to infiltrate this movement. The lone wolf terrorist I think we’ve got a pretty good grip on. But political protest in this country is the heart and soul of who we are. But we haven’t been protesting lately, we’ve been burning down cities. We’ve been attacking federal courthouses. We’ve been looting in the name of social justice, and now we’ve occupied the Capitol.
Lindsey Graham: (03:02)
This needs to stop. To my Democratic colleagues, I share your disgust and embarrassment and determination to make sure that what happened in our Capitol never happens again. But you need to speak up when this happens in other places. Lawlessness in one place breeds lawlessness everywhere. When one cause resorts to violence and people are not prosecuted, other causes believe maybe this is okay. So the mistake we’ve made is when people tried to destroy the courthouse in Portland, they weren’t prosecuted to the full extent of law. When they occupied Seattle, they weren’t prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. When they attacked the acceptance of the nomination by President Trump here in DC, virtually no one was prosecuted.
Lindsey Graham: (03:59)
It’s good to hear everybody wanting prosecutions. Some are late to the dance. I was there from day one. So let’s reset and move forward until every political movement out there, no matter how just your cause in your own mind, using violence will not advance your cause. It will only lead to your personal incarceration or if you go too far to injury.
Lindsey Graham: (04:28)
So what am I calling for? I’m calling for a joint task force to be assembled and spend all the time and money necessary to identify every person who breached the security of the Capitol, who occupied the chambers, who invaded offices and destroyed property. There is a ton of video evidence out there. I was interviewed this morning by two FBI agents. They came to my house wanting to know if I had any surveillance cameras outside of my house. I did not, but I am encouraged they’re on the case. Trust me, in the social media world that exists today, it won’t be that hard to find thousands of people who took the law in their own hands. The people sitting in the chairs need to be sitting in a jail cell. The people who attacked the Capitol police need to be charged with attacking a police officer. Sedition may be a charge for some of these people.
Lindsey Graham: (05:36)
So I will for the next six years, God willing, every week, ask of the Department of Justice, starting with this Department of Justice and the next Department of Justice what kind of progress are you making in holding those accountable, the domestic terrorists who took over the House and the Senate chambers and laid waste to Capitol Hill? What do you need that you don’t have? If you need more prosecutors, money will not be an object. If you need more investigators, we will provide you the resources. This is a moment for the nation to show will and determination, to be a nation of laws that anarchy shall not reign, the Constitution controls, not the mob.
Lindsey Graham: (06:24)
Yesterday I was proud of Senator McConnell, the Republican Leader of the Senate who stood up and called for a peaceful transfer of power to Vice President Biden and Kamala Harris. Like Senator McConnell, I supported President Trump. I’ve become close to the President personally. I think his President has been consequential from a conservative point of view. It has been an amazing four years in terms of judges, securing the border, a vaccine in record time, deregulating the economy, cutting taxes, historic Mideast peace agreements, the destruction of the califate, on and on and on was tarnished by yesterday. When it comes to accountability, the President needs to understand that his actions were the problem, not the solution, that the rally yesterday was unseemly, it got out of hand, and a good friend of mine, Rudy Giuliani, did not help.
Lindsey Graham: (07:24)
I sat on the floor of the Senate. I cast my vote accordingly that Joe Biden is the legitimate President Elect of the United States. Are they irregularities in this election? Yes, I’m sure there are. Have they been overblown? Absolutely. There has been a constant effort by people from the President’s legal team to provide misinformation, to distort the facts, to make accusations that cannot be proven. That needs to stop.
Lindsey Graham: (07:54)
As to the 25th amendment being invoked, I do not believe that’s appropriate at this point. I’m looking for a peaceful transfer of power. I’m looking for the next 14 days to reset and we will hand off power in a traditional sense by being a peaceful transfer. I talked to Mark Meadows this morning. The transition is going well, is fully in place. I talked to the president’s legal counsel, Pat Cipollone. He is doing everything he can to help the transfer occur. As to to these two gentlemen, most Americans will never know the service that Mark Meadows and Pat Cipollone and those under their charge provided to this country over the last year. Talked to Secretary Mnuchin today, who’s in Israel. No one will fully understand what he and others have brought to the table. So to those who believe you should leave your post now to make a statement, I would urge you not. To Robert O’Brien, you’ve been a good counsel-
Lindsey Graham: (09:03)
… not. To Robert O’Brien, you’ve [inaudible 00:09:03] a good counsel to the president. You’ve been a steady hand. I’ve been missing your phone calls. Robert, stay on. To those in the national security apparatus, we need you now more than ever. So I embrace Joe marching statement. I talked to Joe this morning. He has called for those around the president to stay in place, to ensure that we can have a peaceful, efficient transfer of power. Why do I say that Joe Biden is the legitimate president of the United States? Because he got the most votes, the state certified him the winner, enough to get over 300 electoral votes, and all you need is 270. To my colleagues who objected yesterday, you didn’t do anything illegal. The law allows you to do what you did. I respect your ability to do it. I disagreed with what you were trying to do. One member of my conference said, “We can’t turn a blind eye to the problems in this election.” I will tell the American people, there has not been a blind eye turned.
Lindsey Graham: (10:18)
The allegations about the law being broken in Wisconsin, that they changed election law contrary to the Wisconsin Constitution because of COVID, was litigated by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. They ruled four to three, that what happened was legal. Al Gore accepted a five four decision by the US Supreme Court to end his litigation to be present of the United States. My job is not to overturn the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The allegations about the consent decree in Georgia changing Georgia law unconstitutionally, were litigated in federal court, and the Trump team lost.
Lindsey Graham: (11:04)
The people on the campaign legal team have made accusations without sufficient proof. They have been more of the problem than the solution. They have claimed that 66,000 people in Georgia voted under 18. I have not found one person. They have claimed that 8,000 felons voted from prison in Arizona. I’ve asked for lists of names and received none. This needs to end. A blind eye was not turned. The outcome that was reached was disappointing to those of us who supported the president, but it was done through the lawful process of challenging courts, of court challenges, and actually having hearings with the legislative bodies of these swing states. Not one judge anywhere in the land, accepted the accusations to be legitimate, and not one legislative body in the states in question, decided to change the certification after hearing the accusations. The Congress job is not to overturn elections that we disagree with. The Congress’s job is to count the votes sent in by the states, that were lawfully certified, and declare the one with the most votes the winner, president and vice-president.
Lindsey Graham: (12:33)
As to Mike Pence. In this debacle of the last week or so, there’s one person to me that stands out above all others. And that is Vice President Mike Pence. The things said about him, the things he was asked to do in the name of loyalty, were over the top, unconstitutional, illegal, and would have been wrong for the country. Mike Pence faithfully fulfilled the duty assigned to any vice president, to count the votes and declare the winner. To those who would wish that the vice president of the United States could send electoral votes back to the states because they believe fraud was involved, be careful what you wish for.
Lindsey Graham: (13:28)
Do you really believe it’s good in America for a single person to have that power? Do you think the 12th Amendment gives that power? Absolutely not. So what’s so disappointing to me, is that people who have prided themselves on being constitutional conservatives, were pushing this bizarre theory. So I just want every Republican to know that in my view, limited government applies when you don’t like the outcome, just as much as when limited government applies, and you do like the outcome. The constitution needs to be followed as written, even though you wish you could do something the constitution does not allow, to get your way. That’s the very essence of activism.
Lindsey Graham: (14:19)
To those who were pushing the idea that Vice President Pence had the power, to unilaterally set aside certified electoral votes from a single state or send them back, you have cheapened the idea of constitutional conservatism. So when ask to do something against conservative values that would be harmful to the nation, Mike Pence said, “No.” Other people chose this moment to advance their personal causes. I have found in this job over time, moments like this come back to haunt you, if you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing.
Lindsey Graham: (15:07)
So January the 20th I intend to be there. I am hoping that President Trump will allow his team to continue to work closely with the Biden transition team, to transfer power peacefully. That President Trump will focus on some of the achievements he has accomplished, remind the country of the consequential presidency he has had, accept that he fell short and a new president will be coming, and to turn down the rhetoric, and allow us as a nation to heal and move forward. To my democratic colleagues, I ask the same of you. That I’ll take questions.
Speaker 2: (15:58)
[crosstalk 00:00:15:57]. Senator Graham, you were one of President Trump’s biggest critics during in 2016 election. Then you became one of his biggest supporters. Do you have any regrets in your support of him, and what this has led to at this moment?
Lindsey Graham: (16:10)
No. I was a opponent of President Trump and I got beat like a drum. I didn’t scratch. I had a decision to make. I said everything I could think about regarding him as a candidate, the people of South Carolina spoke, he won my state and he became president of the United States. So I decided then, it’s not about me, it’s about my job as being a Senator from South Carolina. People from South Carolina wanted me to work with this president, and I did. I did the same with Obama, I’ll do the same with Biden. But this is a Republican president. He changed my opinion of who he was through his actions.
Speaker 2: (16:52)
His actions yesterday though and helped incite a mob [crosstalk 00:07:55].
Lindsey Graham: (16:55)
Yeah. Just let me get there. The reason I’ve been close to the president is I think he’s done tremendous things for this country. I think the judges he has nominated have been outstanding choices, and we saw yesterday an independent judiciary. I think people like Bill Barr were the best people in the country to be attorney general at the time they were. I think what he did to destroy the califate was long overdue. It makes it safer. I think getting out of the Iran nuclear agreement has led the way to peace between the Arabs and Israelis, at a level I would never had imagined. I think he’s brought order to the border. He listened to me. He asked my advice about judges. When I got upset about Syria, he listened and he actually changed his policies. I could never get Obama to do that. Obama… I had a good relationship with him. But with Senator McCain we begged him, “Do not leave Iraq,” but he did. As to yesterday…
Lindsey Graham: (18:01)
But he did. As to yesterday, it breaks my heart, that my friend, a President of a consequence, were to allow yesterday to happen. And it will be a major part of his presidency. It was a self-inflicted wound. It was going too far. And here’s the one thing I can say, the next two weeks can begin to right the ship depending on how the President behaves. And over time, his presidency will be viewed in a fuller context. I have absolutely no regrets of helping this President make us safer, more prosperous. I’ve enjoyed my relationship with him. I say these things, not because of animosity. I say these things because I have to.
Speaker 3: (18:53)
But Senator Graham, after being so close to this President for four years, do you think that you and other Republicans had more of a responsibility to speak out both privately and publicly when he said things that were untrue, when he ginned up his base? Do you think that that would have made a difference yesterday?
Lindsey Graham: (19:14)
I think the Trump presidency has been poorly covered by people in your business. I think that from the time he took office, there’s been an effort to cover his presidency in a way that I think is not helpful to the country. I have spoken up. There has been an effort to believe everything that Trump did was wrong before it’s proven or not. All I can say is that I have shared my thoughts with the President. I’ve spoken out when I thought I should. But the one thing that I want you to know, that plenty of Republicans believe that the Trump presidency was never legitimate in the eyes of the Democratic party, never accepted by the people in your business, and it’s been a constant drum beat. And I think that’s taken a toll on all of us. So could I’ve done better? Yes. The question could you have done better? Could those of you who cover the White House done better? Need to ask yourself that.
Speaker 3: (20:17)
[crosstalk 00:20:17] Senator Graham, do you mind if I just follow up on that really quickly, you didn’t acknowledge Joe Biden as President of this United States for a month and a half. Didn’t that contribute to the notion among Trump supporters that this was stolen from them?
Lindsey Graham: (20:31)
I think that is exactly the problem. Did anybody doubt that Vice-President Gore? Did you ask any Democrat, why don’t you acknowledge that Vice-President Gore lost? You waited to the results were in of the litigation?
Speaker 3: (20:48)
Lindsey Graham: (20:48)
No, it’s not. No, it’s a President going to court, challenging results. From the time the race was called, I was hounded. Why don’t you say Biden won? You wanted me to declare Biden the winner before President Trump had the right to go to court and exercise the same rights other Presidents have had. And I chose not to do that. I said last night, Joe Biden is the President. He won. The constitution worked.
Speaker 4: (21:24)
Senator Graham, you just said that Vice President Pence was asked to do things that were illegal-
Lindsey Graham: (21:30)
Speaker 4: (21:30)
Lindsey Graham: (21:31)
Speaker 4: (21:31)
He was asked to do those things by the President publicly. So why shouldn’t the 25th amendment be used if the President asked the Vice President to do things that were illegal and unconstitutional?
Lindsey Graham: (21:42)
Yeah. I think what the President was asking of the Vice President was not constitutionally allowed. He had people who said that he could do it. The fault lies, I think with some of the legal advice around it. You’ve had people in his legal team make claims that are just beyond the pale. The President’s frustrated. He thought he was cheated. Nobody’s ever going to convince him that he wasn’t. But this idea of asking the Vice President to use his powers to send back electors that were certified doesn’t exist in the constitution.
Speaker 3: (22:17)
He’s the President, shouldn’t the buck stop somewhere else?
Speaker 5: (22:20)
[inaudible 00:22:20] He said it would not be appropriate to invoke that right now. Do you trust the President not to incite the kind of violence that he promoted yesterday in the next two weeks?
Lindsey Graham: (22:31)
I’m hoping he won’t. I’m hoping that he will allow Mark Meadows to continue with the transition. That he will start talking more about what he’s done as President, focus on the threats we have coming from Iran, finish out the next 14 days in a way that will allow us to get a good start for Vice President Biden. That it does him no good in my view now, to continue to attack the legitimacy of the election because this election was legitimate and it has now been decided constitutionally. So my hope is that we can move forward in the next 14 days, but this will depend on what the President does. I am hopeful that the worst is behind us and we can transfer power on January 20th.
Speaker 6: (23:14)
Speaker 5: (23:15)
Senator, what gives you that hope? Have you spoken to him [crosstalk 00:00:23:17]?
Lindsey Graham: (23:18)
I talked with some people this morning, that seems to be a belief that we’re moving in the right direction. And I’m just trying to reinforce that. The people around him, I think, have the right attitude. The people around him, I think, are giving him good advice. It’s up to the President to take it. And again, you asked me about my relationship with the President. I regret it not one bit. I think we’ve had a hell of a ride. We’ve done some great things for the country. I hate that it ends this way.
Speaker 6: (23:49)
Senator, do you believe that the events of yesterday could damage [inaudible 00:23:54] disqualify the President from seeking the office again in the future?
Lindsey Graham: (23:59)
I’m not worried about the next election. I’m worried about getting through the next 14 days. We’ll talk about 2022 and 2024. Let’s get Vice President Biden sworn in January the 20th. And I’ll make an observation politically. If you’re a Republican, been tough couple of weeks. We lost Georgia. Two good candidates fell short. I’m confident that from what I hear, the Democrats are going to overreach. If we can regroup, rebuild ourselves, get away from the fiery rhetoric and the conspiracy theories, that we’ll have a chance in 2022 to take back the Senate and take back the House. But it’s going to require us to go back to the blocking and tackling of conservative politics.
Speaker 6: (24:52)
Senator, can you respond to the Democrats? They’re not only talking about the25th amendment, both Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi has used the word, talk about impeachment, pursuing impeachment. Can you just respond to what the response would be from Republicans if they did that?
Lindsey Graham: (25:04)
I don’t remember either one of them speaking up a whole lot during other crisis. I mean, I like them both, but when they were burning Portland down and Seattle, they never said a word. When they were attacking Rand, [inaudible 00:25:17] never said a word. The guy that sort of stood out to me was Joe Biden. I thought Joe Biden did a really good job yesterday of talking about how bad this is and we need to get it behind us. And I’m telling you as a Republican, I don’t support an effort to invoke the 25th amendment. Now, if something else happens, all options would be on the table. But I see, I hear from Schumer and Pelosi, just political talk.
Speaker 7: (25:45)
Senator, what kind of role do you think that President Trump should take in the next 13 days? Should he be more public? He’s been banned from some social, well, suspended from some social media platforms. And what kind of role would you like to see Vice President Pence play?
Lindsey Graham: (26:02)
Well, I’d like to see President Trump help unify the country. I don’t know if he’s going to come to the inauguration. It’s up to him, I wish he would. I wish he would come and acknowledge that the transfer of powers has occurred, but that’ll be up to President Trump. He shouldn’t come unless he feels like it’s the right thing to do for the country. Things like that would go a long way. I think he should talk about what he’s done. I think he should focus on some policy achievements and basically let the Biden administration know that I have secured the border, here’s how I’ve secured it, if you change these policies, we’re going to go back to chaos.
Lindsey Graham: (26:41)
I think he should talk about how we’ve gotten all these peace agreements between the Arabs and Israelis, that’s by being tough on Iran. I think he should explain to the American people, the successes of his policies and that not only will be helpful to Vice President Biden, soon to be President Biden, but he will have a responsibility if he changes those policies. If I were the President, I would high-
Lindsey Graham: (27:03)
Responsibility if he changes those policies. If I were the President, I would highlight what I’ve been able to do at the border and explain to the Biden administration, “This worked.” How did we get these peace agreements between these Arab nations and Israel? How can you do more?
Speaker 3: (27:17)
Why do you think he can’t do that? Do you believe, after spending so much time with him, that he is mentally unwell, as some of his aides have said?
Lindsey Graham: (27:25)
I think he’s very frustrated. He thinks the election were stolen. I think he’s got some very bad advisors around him that push ideas that are not sound. I think the President has got good people around him now. I think Mark Meadows and Pat Cipollone and others are giving him good counsel and good advice.
Lindsey Graham: (27:45)
I am here today to answer your questions to say what I think. I think the best thing the President can do is encourage a transition to be peaceful, to be professional, and to use the voice he has in the next 14 days to talk about his successes and to bring us together. He has a voice and I would like him to use that voice to bring us together and to focus on his accomplishments. We’re going to soon have a new President. I promise to work with Vice President Biden to the extent I can. There’s things we can do and there are things we’re not going to be able to do.
Speaker 8: (28:23)
If he hasn’t done it the last 4 years, what makes you think you can do it in the last 14 days and bring people together?
Lindsey Graham: (28:27)
Well, I think he has, in the last four years, accomplished major things. Now, in terms of a personal style, he’s been divisive. All I can say is that many of us on the conservative side believe that the coverage of President Trump has been over the top. I was here during the Obama years.
Lindsey Graham: (28:50)
Good example, the Mueller investigation you covered breathlessly turned out not to be the event that it was billed to be. When we looked at the abuse at the Department of Justice and the FBI, you found it in the obituary page. That Fox, [inaudible 00:29:09] y’all covered it, for the most part. That’s the double standard. I think that the problems that Hunter Biden have, if a Trump had done those things, it’d be front page news everywhere. There’s a lot of people on my side of the aisle who believe that the President, the way he’s been covered has contributed to a lot of discourse. You all have lost, the mainstream media, conservative America. And you got to ask why.
Speaker 9: (29:39)
What concerns do you have with the way that Capitol Hill Police handled the protest last night? Should their $460 million budget be reviewed?
Lindsey Graham: (29:48)
Okay. One, thank the frontline officers. How could we not be prepared? How could, in a joint session of Congress, with the Vice President in the building, you not do better than this? Where were the National Guard? Black Lives Matter protests, have you seen the images on the Capitol steps where you had National Guard members in riot gear? Why weren’t you as prepared this time around? Where was the Pentagon?
Lindsey Graham: (30:21)
There’s all kinds of stories that they were refusing to activate the DC National Guard. I don’t believe that to be true. But what kind of intelligence gathering apparatus does the Capitol Hill Police Department and the agencies in charge of defending the Capitol have? How could they fail so miserably? We’re 20 years after 9/11. Yesterday, they could have blown the building up. They could have killed us all. They could have destroyed the government.
Lindsey Graham: (30:52)
People coming through the windows had backpacks as big as my desk on the Senate. They should have been challenged. Warning shots should have been fired and lethal force should have been used once they penetrated the seat of government. Those backpacks could have had bombs, chemical agents, weapons. We dodged a major bullet yesterday.
Lindsey Graham: (31:19)
If this is not a wake-up call, I do not know what is. Is it a money problem? If it is, we’ll fix it. Is it a leadership problem? Obviously. Is it an intel failure of the highest proportions? Absolutely.
Lindsey Graham: (31:34)
I will end where I began. There are so many storylines for the last 48 hours, many of them political. This one has brought us together. Bernie Sanders was as upset with what happened as I was. I was talking with Bernie about how could they come in and take over the Senate?
Lindsey Graham: (31:54)
He said, “Get them out of there.” To his credit, Bernie wanted a forceful response to the domestic terrorists who occupied the House and the Senate. Let’s end on this note. Yesterday, the Capitol of the United States was taken over by domestic terrorists that are not Patriots. They overwhelmed the Capitol Police. They destroyed the House. They took over the place and sat in the presiding officer’s chair. They went through my desk and all of us had to go to a single room to be protected.
Lindsey Graham: (32:40)
This shall never happen again. We’ve lost our will and our determination to stand up for law and order. When you let a courthouse be attacked and nobody gets prosecuted, the next thing you know, it gets worse. To all the mayors out there who have discord and unlawful behavior in your city, get on top of it.
Lindsey Graham: (33:03)
I’m not a mayor. I’m a United States Senator. I accept responsibility for fixing this problem. How do you fix this problem? You adequately resource those in charge of defense. You hold those accountable. If they fail, you fire them, and you prosecute the law breaker. All of these images of people sitting in these chairs and Pelosi’s Speaker’s chair, I mean, office chair, we know who that person is. They should go from sitting in the speaker’s chair to a jail cell. Thank you.