Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said Donald Trump remains the party’s “most potent force” even after his second impeachment, and suggested Minority Leader Mitch McConnell hurt the GOP by blaming the former president for the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
“The Trump movement is alive and well,” Graham, one of Trump’s most consistent allies, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “All I can say is the most potent force in the Republican Party is President Trump. We need Trump-plus.”
The South Carolina senator’s comments reflect the internal struggle facing the party after a minority of Republican senators sided with Democrats on Saturday and voted to convict Trump of inciting supporters to breach the Capitol, clash with police, and interfere with the certification of his election defeat by the Senate.
Trump’s level of support among the GOP base will help determine his future role in the party. Graham said there’s no question Republicans need to work with Trump to win future elections and that he’ll be meeting him in Florida “next week.”
“We can’t do it without him,” Graham said on “Fox News Sunday.”
McConnell’s speech, in which the top Republican in the Senate denounced Trump as “practically and morally responsible” for the storming Capitol -- despite voting to acquit him on the impeachment charge -- was “an outlier” that will weigh on the party down the road, Graham said.
“He got a load off his chest, obviously.” Graham said. “But unfortunately, he put a load on the back of Republicans. That speech you will see in 2022 campaigns.”
Republicans who have crossed Trump, including House members who voted for his impeachment in January and the senators who joined Democrats in Saturday’s vote, have already met pushback from within the GOP.
Senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Richard Burr of North Carolina were both censured on Saturday by their state parties. Burr plans to retire from the Senate at the end of his term; Cassidy was re-elected in November and won’t face voters again until 2026.
“I voted to convict President Trump because he is guilty,” Cassidy said Saturday in a tweet.
In another sign that Trump’s influence could live on, Graham predicted the former president’s daughter in law, Lara Trump, could run for Burr’s Senate seat in 2022.
“I think she represents the future of the Republican Party,” Graham said.