Graham: McConnell 'put a load on Republicans' back' with anti-Trump speech

South Carolina senator warns McConnell's words will be used against Republican candidates in 2022

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called out Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for speaking out against former President Donald Trump after voting to acquit Trump at his impeachment trial.

Despite voting in Trump's favor, McConnell, R-Ky., blamed the former president for the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Graham warned on "Fox News Sunday" that this will be used against Republicans as they try to retake control of Congress in 2022.

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"I think Sen. McConnell's speech, he got a load off his chest, obviously, but unfortunately he put a load on the back of Republicans," Graham said. "That speech you will see in 2022 campaigns."

Graham said GOP candidates running in states like Arizona and Georgia that could be key in Republican efforts to take back the Senate will be asked about McConnell’s speech. Likewise, he said incumbent candidates will be asked about whether they will support McConnell in the future.

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McConnell said Saturday that Trump committed "a disgraceful dereliction of duty" by his actions prior to the deadly riot and was "practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day."

Graham said that while Trump had pushed "narratives about the election that I think are not sound and not true," he does not believe the former president's words incited the riot.

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Looking at the party as a whole, Graham said McConnell’s speech is an "outlier" when it comes to GOP feelings about Trump's second impeachment.

Graham said he has spoken to Trump since the trial, and while the former president is upset with some members of his party, he is "excited about 2022" and looking to help rebuild the Republican Party in next year's midterm elections.

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The senator also said he believes the impeachment set a dangerous precedent.

"I don't know how Kamala Harris doesn't get impeached if the Republicans take over the House, because she actually bailed out rioters, and one of the rioters went back to the streets and broke somebody's head open," Graham said. "So we've opened Pandora's box here, and I'm sad for the country."

In June, Harris and other Democrats urged people to contribute to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, which was posting bail for people arrested during George Floyd protests.