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Graham on Mueller: I don't care about the obstruction of justice stuff

The Hill logo The Hill 9/26/2019 Alexander Bolton
Lindsey Graham et al. standing next to a man in a suit and tie: Graham on Mueller: I don't care about the obstruction of justice stuff © Greg Nash Graham on Mueller: I don't care about the obstruction of justice stuff

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a close ally of President Trump, says he never took seriously the possible charges of obstruction of justice raised by special counsel Robert Mueller's report.

Graham says he was more concerned about charges that Trump and his senior advisers may have colluded with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign, something that Mueller's report failed to find.

"I didn't care about the obstruction of justice stuff. What I cared about was were you working with the Russians?" Graham told reporters Thursday in response to a question about whether he thought there were any significant findings in the Mueller report.

Graham's statement reflects the views of other Republicans that Trump can't be impeached for obstruction of justice if the special counsel failed to find an underlying crime.

Attorney General William Barr wrote in a letter to Congress in March that the lack of evidence showing that Trump was "involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference" weighed heavily on his determination that the president was not guilty of obstructing justice.

The findings of the Mueller report are getting a second look on Capitol Hill after the decision by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to launch a formal impeachment inquiry in the House. House Democrats are most focused, however, on allegations that Trump pressed Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden for his own political gain, and whether he withheld aid to that country.

Graham, who served as a prosecutor in the Senate's 1999 impeachment trial of then President Bill Clinton, says the Democrats' impeachment push against Trump is bogus.

"There is no high crime or misdemeanor from the Mueller report and this whole transcript is a joke," Graham said Thursday, arguing that neither Mueller's 448-page report nor a transcript of Trump's call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky provide grounds for impeachment proceedings.

Graham said if Mueller found that Trump or his senior advisers colluded with Russia, it would have been a deal-breaker. But he noted that was not found to be true after an exhaustive investigation.

"I've told him to his face that if you're working with the Russians, that would be it for you with me," Graham said of his conversations with the president. "I've said that to the whole world. I didn't know what Mueller was going to find. I supported the Mueller investigation to its completion.

"If there had been real collusion between Trump and the Russians to get an advantage over his opponent, that would have been disqualifying," Graham said of the 2016 election. "I think all this other stuff is politically driven."

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