Government Watchdogs Request a Formal Senate Ethics Committee Investigation Into Lindsey Graham
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is having a rough week. He has been facing calls to step down as chair of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee and to resign his from office entirely after allegations emerged that he tried to interfere with the vote tally in several key swing states.
The scandal broke on Tuesday after Georgia’s Republican secretary of state Brad Raffensperger told The Washington Post that Graham suggested during a conversation last Friday that Raffensperger should find a way to toss out legally cast ballots, hoping that doing so would magically deliver Georgia’s 16 Electoral College votes to President Donald Trump, who was defeated by President-Elect Joe Biden.
“It sure looked like he was wanting to go down that road,” Raffensperger said.
Graham responded on Monday, telling reporters that Raffensperger’s claim was “ridiculous.” He insisted that his main concern is, “how do you protect the integrity of mail-in voting and how does signature verification work? If he [Raffensperger] feels threatened by that conversation, he’s got a problem,” Graham added. “I actually thought it was a good conversation.”
On Wednesday, three ethics watchdogs – Walter Shaub, a former top ethics watchdog for the federal government; Richard Painter, the chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush’s administration; and Claire Finkelstein, the director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law – filed a formal request with the Senate Ethics Committee to open an investigation into what Raffensperger accused Graham of doing.
“We write to urge the Senate Select Committee on Ethics to investigate whether Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called Georgia’s Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, to discuss his ongoing count of votes for the office of president,” the trio wrote in a letter to Senate Ethics Committee co-chairs James Lankford (R-OK) and Christopher Coons (D-DE). “We further urge the committee to investigate whether Senator Graham suggested that Secretary Raffensperger disenfranchise Georgia voters by not counting votes lawfully cast for the office of president. Finally, your Committee should demand clarity as to whether Senator Graham has threatened anyone with a Senate investigation of the Georgia vote tally and or taken steps to initiate such an investigation.”
Graham may have committed a felony.
“If these allegations are true, Senator Graham’s conduct constitutes an abuse of office and conduct unbecoming of a Senator. 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,” the watchdogs said. “The Senate Select Committee should investigate this matter and, if it finds Chairman Graham committed the alleged misconduct, seek an appropriate sanction or any other appropriate remedy.”
They said that “there can be no legitimate reason for the Judiciary Committee’s chairman to call a top election official regarding an ongoing vote count,” and that the evidence that has so far come to light is damning.
“We find Secretary Raffensperger’s allegations plausible. A senior staffer in the Secretary of State’s office has substantially corroborated his account of Senator Graham’s suggestion. Others may soon come forward, for he has reportedly indicated that more than one staff member was on the call with him. Secretary Raffensperger is a Republican elected official who says he supported President Trump in the election,” wrote Schaub, Painter, and Finkelstein. “He has said, ‘I was rooting for the Republicans to win.’ Making up the claim about Senator Graham would harm his standing within his own party. As further disincentive, even acknowledging that the two discussed the ongoing vote count will subject him to heightened scrutiny.”
Graham’s fervent allegience to Trump, who has baselessly claimed that there was rampant voter fraud in Georgia, they said, adds another layer of suscpicion to the Senator’s alleged purported conduct:
President Trump tweeted: ‘Georgia Secretary of State, a so-called Republican (RINO), won’t let the people checking the ballots see the signatures for fraud. Why? Without this the whole process is very unfair and close to meaningless. Everyone knows that we won the state.’ The president posted this tweet on the same day that Secretary Raffensperger says Senator Graham called him about signature matching and allegedly suggested discarding legally cast votes to tilt the election in President Trump’s favor
Further, the ethics experts reiterated, “there was no legitimate reason for the Judiciary Committee’s chairman to call a top election official regarding an ongoing vote count,” adding that “it is not clear why Senator Graham thought that claiming he repeated the alleged misconduct would serve as a valid defense… Senator Graham acknowledged the potential for his call to have intimidated the state official: ‘If he feels threatened by that conversation, he’s got a problem.’ This flippant response about such serious charges is, itself, conduct unbecoming of a member of the Senate.”
The trio also requested that Graham “be recused from any investigation or other Senate matter relating to alleged irregularities in the 2020 election.”
Graham’s “extreme misconduct” and “abuse of senatorial authority” must not go unchecked, the watchdogs declared, especially given Graham’s admittedly transparent motive.
“This alleged attempt by Senator Graham to throw the election for President Trump after the fact by encouraging the very fraud he purports to be investigating threatens the fabric of our nation by undermining the very thing that makes it a republic, our elections. Even if the committee believes only Senator Graham’s account, his call to the state election official during an ongoing vote count amounts to misconduct. These alleged acts committed by Senator Graham bring discredit and dishonor upon the Senate and constitute conduct unbecoming of a United States Senator,” they wrote. “Therefore, we urge the committee to open an investigation of Senator Graham at once and, if it finds the conduct occurred as alleged, take the strongest action within its authority to address misconduct by a member of the Senate.”
Sixty-three days until the inauguration.