(CNN)Fresh off a surprisingly pedestrian election win on November 3, Lindsey Graham has decided to take on a new role: The most aggressive enforcer of the idea that President Donald Trump maybe — just maybe! — didn’t lose the 2020 election.
In recent days, the South Carolina Republican has reached out to election officials in at least three states — Georgia, Arizona and Nevada — to inquire about the process by which, among other things, signatures are verified on mail-in ballots.Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, told CNN that Graham had called him to urge the removal of ballots amid the ongoing hand recount in the state. “I got the sense it implied that then you could throw those out for any, if you look at the counties with the highest frequent error of signatures,” Raffensperger told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Monday night. “So that’s the impression that I got.”Graham told CNN that Raffensperger’s allegations was “ridiculous.” But a staffer for the Georgia secretary of state affirmed Raffensperger’s version of events to CNN on Tuesday. “What I heard was basically discussions about absentee ballots and if a potentially … if there was a percentage of signatures that weren’t really, truly matching, is there some point we could get to, we could say somebody went to a courtroom could say, ‘Well, let’s throw (out) all these ballots because we have no way of knowing because the ballots are separated,’ “ said Georgia election implementation manager Gabriel Sterling.Read More
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Graham, even as he was defending his call to Raffensperger, revealed to reporters that he had also reached out to election officials in two other states where the vote count between Trump and President-elect Joe Biden was quite close — and where the President has insisted, with zero proof, that there were shenanigans involved in the ballot counting. That claim, however, was almost immediately disputed by Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, who said she had not spoken to Graham (or any other member of Congress) about the vote count in the state. Graham told reporters he was not sure who he had talked to in Nevada (uh, OK) and that he had spoken with Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey in Arizona.Of course, all of this back-and-forth over who Graham called and what, specifically, he said misses this larger point: Why in the hell has Lindsey Graham self-deputized himself to play this role for Trump? Graham has said he did not make these calls at Trump’s behest.After all, it’s a little odd for the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to be placing personal calls into states that had tight vote counts in search of, uh, information about their voting processes. It’s not too much to suggest that such calls might be regarded by the people on the other end of the line as a bit of intimidation. Imagine you are an elections official in Nevada — I’d name names but Graham can’t remember who he talked to! — and a call comes in from Graham, one of Trump’s most loyal and high profile allies. Sort of unexpected! And definitely a little nerve-wracking!Aside the possibility of intimidation of election officials, there’s just how the whole thing looks. Which is, um, not good. Because why is a sitting US senator not from Georgia, Arizona or Nevada suddenly so interested in the minutiae of how a state conducts its own elections? And why did Graham just happen to express so much interest in these three states that just happened to be swing states in the 2020 election? (Sidebar: There are no consequences in politics. None.)So — even for Graham, who has comfortably settled into his role as top Trump toady over the President’s first term — this feels like a new line that he has crossed. Which is odd. Because in 64 days, Donald Trump won’t be president anymore. But Graham will still be in the Senate — and forced to look his colleagues in the eye and explain why he did what he did over the last four years.