Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., did not back down from opposing pardons for Jan. 6 defendants after former President Donald Trump called him a "RINO" — a Republican in name only.
Trump told Newsmax on Tuesday night that Graham was a RINO for opposing the former president's suggestion that he would pardon "overcharged and mistreated" arrestees stemming from the Jan. 6, 2021 attack at the Capitol.
Graham defended his stance in a statement Wednesday.
"I stand with the police officers who protect our streets, federal courthouses, and the United States Capitol against rioters," Graham said, The Hill reported. "They deserve our respect and support, and I will not second-guess the decisions they made under dire circumstances.
"All Americans are entitled to have a speedy trial and their day in court, but those who actively engage in violence for whatever political cause must be held accountable and not be forgiven."
During an appearance on Tuesday's "Rob Schmitt Tonight," Trump was asked about pushback from people such as Graham regrading the suggestion that the "political prisoners," as Trump calls them, should be pardoned.
"Well, Lindsey Graham's wrong," Trump said. "I mean, Lindsey's a nice guy, but he's a RINO. Lindsey's wrong.
"I would absolutely be prepared, and Lindsey Graham doesn't know what the hell he's talking about, if he says that, because you have to have equal justice," Trump added. "It's very, very unfair what's happened to this group of people."
Graham has been considered one of Trump's strongest allies in Congress.
Trump often used the term "RINO” to refer to other Republicans, such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Graham has said Trump will be the Republicans' likely presidential nominee in 2024 if he wants it, "unless there's something coming out of left field.”
Three weeks ago, Graham warned Republicans that Trump is the face of the GOP, and even fired a warning shot at McConnell.
"Elections are about the future," Graham said. "If you want to be a Republican leader in the House or the Senate, you have to have a working relationship with President Donald Trump.
"He's the most consequential Republican since Ronald Reagan. It's his nomination if he wants it, and I think he’ll get reelected in 2024."
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