It shouldn’t come as a surprise that as the Capitol Police were clearing out Congress following the attack on the Capitol last Jan. 6, Lindsey Graham’s mind was on politics. The senator from South Carolina was thinking specifically about how the riot could rally the nation, and who the best president would be to shepherd the nation through the healing process.
It wasn’t Donald Trump.
New audio provided to CNN on Tuesday night by Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin of The New York Times reveals that Graham was relieved that Biden would take Trump’s place in office after the Jan. 6 attack. Here’s an excerpt:
Graham: “We will actually come out of this thing stronger. Moments like this reset. It’ll take a while. People will calm down. People will [say]: ‘Don’t want to be associated with that.’ This is a group within a group. What this does, there will be a rallying effect for a while, where the country says, ‘We’re better than this.’”
Martin: “And Biden will help, right?”
Graham: “Yeah, totally. He’ll be maybe the best person to have, right? I mean, how mad can you get at Joe Biden?”
Unlike the audio Burns and Martin leaked of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy bashing Trump in the aftermath of the attack, the audio of Graham was recorded on Jan. 6 as the Capitol Police were still trying to clear the building. The comments also came in an interview Martin conducted with Graham, not in a recording of a phone call that was leaked to him.
The attack on the Capitol may have rallied the nation “for a while,” but that “while” certainly didn’t last as long as Graham may have imagined. Republican lawmakers and conservative media came back around to supporting Trump in a matter of weeks, if not sooner, and in the year-plus since the attack the party has come to embrace it. The Republican National Committee described it as “legitimate political discourse” earlier this year. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called it a “peaceful protest” earlier this week after having previously called it a “violent insurrection.”
Cruz did so while speaking to Sean Hannity on Fox News. Graham was a guest on the same show and, wouldn’t you know it, he praised Trump’s handling of the attack, saying that the former president “knew when to tell [the rioters] to leave.” Trump famously waited hours before tweeting that his supporters should “go home” from the Capitol. “We love you,” Trump added. “You’re very special.”