Lindsey Graham walks back call for Putin’s assassination and instead says he ‘needs to go to jail’

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The low-polling Republican Senator ends his 2016 campaign
The low-polling Republican Senator ends his 2016 campaign

Less than 24 hours after calling for Russian president Vladimir Putin’s assassination, South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham has walked back his comments after they elicited outrage from prominent Republicans and legal and foreign policy experts.

Speaking on Fox and Friends on Friday, Mr Graham was asked to respond to comments by Russia’s ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, calling a series of tweets posted by the senator late Thursday “unacceptable and outrageous” and demanding an apology.

Mr Graham had taken to Twitter last night — as video emerged of Russian forces shelling the largest nuclear power plant in Europe — to invoke the names of two prominent historical assassins and suggest that a member of Mr Putin’s inner circle emulate them.

“Is there a Brutus in Russia? 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,” he wrote.

He added that Russia would “live in darkness” unless someone were to “step up to the plate” and take out Mr Putin.

The more well-known of the names referenced by Mr Graham — Quintus Servilius Caepio Brutus — was the most prominent of the 60 Roman senators who conspired to assassinate Roman emperor Julius Caesar in 44 BC.

The other, German Army Colonel Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, was a key member of the German resistance within the Wehrmacht who was executed after the failure of the 20 July 1944 assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler.

In response to Mr Antonov’s demand for an apology, the senator said it was the Russian ambassador who needed to “apologise to the world” for Russian forces’ “indiscriminate use of force and violation of the Geneva Convention” in Ukraine.

But the senator did not renew his call for Mr Putin’s death, and said instead that the Russian dictator “needs to go to jail”.