““He’ll be maybe the best person to have, right. I mean, how mad can you get at Joe Biden?””
That was Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) speaking with New York Times reporter Jonathan Martin and CNN analyst in a secure location on Jan. 6, 2021, after hundreds of Trump supporters rioted at the Capitol complex in Washington, D.C. to disrupt the joint session of Congress affirming that Joe Biden won the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
Martin and fellow Times reporter Alexander Burns’s new book, “This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America’s Future” recounts the run-up to the 2020 election and the first year of the Biden presidency. Their reporting has found that some top Republicans who have publicly supported Trump were much more critical of their party leader in the immediate aftermath of Jan. 6.
Graham, for instance, was much more positive toward Biden. Martin told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the South Carolina senator said that Trump “plays the TV game and he went too far here.… That rally didn’t help, talking about primarying Liz [Cheney]. He created a sense of revenge.”
Martin asked, “Biden will help that, right?” And Graham responded, “Totally, he’ll be maybe the best person to have, right. I mean, how mad can you get at Joe Biden?”
Graham’s communications director Kevin Bishop told MarketWatch over email, “Senator Graham has repeatedly said the Joe Biden we see as president is not the one we saw when he served in the Senate. He’s pursued a far left agenda as President.”
He added that some Democratic members of Congress have noted a “radical” difference in Biden since he took office, such as moderate Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), who said “nobody elected [President Biden] to be FDR,” last fall.
Martin noted that the assumptions during his chat with Graham — that the country would “reset” and become more unified after the Jan. 6 incident, and that Biden would be the conciliatory commander-in-chief to bring people together — have not been met. Instead, partisan divisions were deepened because Biden “is one more partisan actor on the political scene in this tribal moment that we’re living through in this country,” Martin said.
And he suggested that GOP lawmakers who initially condemned Jan. 6 and criticized Trump’s role in it at the time, including Graham, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, have come back to supporting Trump because that’s what their voting base demanded.
“GOP lawmakers like Lindsay Graham found out their voters didn’t want to move on …. they weren’t enamored at all with Joe Biden, and they wanted to keep the party’s embrace of Donald Trump going,” Martin said on CNN. “And I think once people like Graham and Kevin McCarthy figured that out, it was back to normal. And normal was sticking with Donald Trump.”
“This Will Not Pass,” which hit shelves on May 3, 2022, also reported that McConnell said Trump “totally discredited himself” during the Jan. 6 attack. He added that this “couldn’t have happened at a better time,” which likely referenced the fact that Trump had lost the November election to Biden a month earlier — by well more than 7 million votes — and could be seen as proactively setting the stage for the GOP to move on from Trump and Trumpism.