Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., appeared to urge police officers to use their firearms during the protests leading up to the Jan. 6 inauguration of President Trump.
“Use the weapons. See if you can use them against people who are using your presence to riot, and try to intimidate people,” Graham told police in a recorded telephone call played Monday by protesters at his committee’s hearing on Capitol Hill. “You know, we’re watching this week and a lot of people thought it might be President Obama, but the truth is it’s Donald Trump, and to the extent we can we will be there to protect the people.”
In an apparent call to arms, Graham told police “we’re watching this week and a lot of people thought it might be President Obama, but the truth is it’s Donald Trump, and to the extent we can we will be there to protect the people.”
Graham spoke with the 911 operator during a Jan. 6 protest that resulted in the arrest of several people. Among those arrested was Democratic activist Daniel Morgan, who was charged with “destruction of property, conspiracy to commit destruction of property, and displaying the firearm in that circumstance.”
During the same phone call, Graham also blamed protesters who call themselves Democrats for the chaos in the streets, insisting that protesters must take action to reclaim democracy.
“These people are acting like the Democrats never controlled the town hall movement,” Graham said. “They’ve got a national convention coming up. They’ve got protesters at every state level. So the people up here, you’re on the front lines, right? You’re not just supporting Donald Trump. You’re basically there to stop what these people who pretend to be the Democrats are doing to the country.”
The hearing, which featured testimony from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and police in all the cities that were specifically mentioned by protesters as being prime targets for large demonstrations on Inauguration Day, touched on a larger debate that has divided Democrats in recent weeks.
In the wake of the racially-charged protests in Charlottesville, Va., lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have argued over how police should respond to protests. While House Democrats have pushed for more sanctions on law enforcement, some Senate Democrats have focused their attention on peaceful demonstrators.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a member of the committee, spoke with dozens of people who were attending the protests in Washington that night, according to news reports, and urged them to keep the protest peaceful.
During that hearing, Graham said that there would be “many, many brave police officers” who would protect the Senate during the president’s inauguration but suggested that protesters were less willing to cooperate. He also appeared to suggest that some protesters were attempting to intimidate police officers.
“These protesters are clearly trying to threaten and intimidate the police,” Graham said. “They are not doing that with people who look to be trusted.”