Sen. Lindsey Graham doubles down on call for Putin's assassination

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Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on Wednesday doubled down on calling for the assassination of Russian President Vladimir Putin — a suggestion that has been widely rebuked by lawmakers in both parties.

“I hope he'll be taken out, one way or the other,” Graham said during a press conference on Capitol Hill. “I don't care how they take him out. I don't care if we send him to The Hague and try him. I just want him to go.

“Yes, I'm on record,” Graham continued. “If John McCain were here, he'd be saying the same thing, I think. It's time for him to go. He's a war criminal. I wish somebody had taken Hitler out in the '30s. So yes, Vladimir Putin is not a legitimate leader. He is a war criminal.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks during a news conference.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., at a news conference on Capitol Hill Wednesday. (Mandel NganAFP via Getty Images)

As he did on Twitter earlier this month, Graham explained that he wants the Russian people to carry out Putin’s assassination — not the United States.

“He needs to be dealt with by the Russian people,” Graham said. “I'm not asking to invade Russia to take him out. I'm not asking to send American ground forces into Ukraine to fight the Russian army. I am asking the Russian people to rise up and end this reign of terror.”

He added: “I think the world is better off without Putin, the sooner the better, and I don't care how we do it.”

Graham first floated this idea in a tweet on March 3.

“Is there a Brutus in Russia?” he wrote. “Is there a more successful Colonel Stauffenberg in the Russian military? The only way this ends is for somebody in Russia to take this guy out. You would be doing your country — and the world — a great service.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin sitting at a table in front of a Russian flag.
Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting in Moscow on March 10. (Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)

Graham was referring to Marcus Junius Brutus, who was among Julius Caesar’s assassins in 44 B.C., and Claus von Stauffenberg, a German officer who attempted to kill Adolf Hitler with a briefcase bomb in 1944 and was executed after the Nazi leader survived the blast.

The comments received wide bipartisan pushback.

“Seriously, wtf?” tweeted Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. “I really wish our members of Congress would cool it and regulate their remarks as the administration works to avoid WWlll.”

“This is an exceptionally bad idea,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, wrote on Twitter. “Use massive economic sanctions; BOYCOTT Russian oil & gas; and provide military aid so the Ukrainians can defend themselves. But we should not be calling for the assassination of heads of state.”

“This is irresponsible, dangerous & unhinged,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., tweeted. “We need leaders with calm minds & steady wisdom. Not blood thirsty warmongering politicians trying to tweet tough by demanding assassinations. Americans don’t want war.”