Trump says he would 'absolutely' consider Jan. 6 pardons — and attacks Lindsey Graham for opposing them

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Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday doubled down on his assertion that he might pardon those who have been convicted of crimes related to the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol — and disparaged Sen. Lindsey Graham for not supporting the idea.

“Well, Lindsay Graham is wrong,” Trump said in an interview with Newsmax. “I mean, Lindsey is a nice guy, but he’s a RINO. Lindsey’s wrong.” RINO, which stands for “Republican in name only,” is a term used by grassroots conservatives to disparage supposedly more moderate members of the GOP.

At a rally in Conroe, Texas, on Saturday, Trump said he would consider pardoning people convicted of joining the attack if he is elected to a second term, in 2024.

“If I run and I win, we will treat those people from Jan. 6 fairly,” Trump told the crowd. “We will treat them fairly, and if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons, because they are being treated so unfairly.”

Appearing on CBS’s “Face The Nation” Sunday, Graham said he disagreed with the idea.

“I think it’s inappropriate,” Graham said. “I don’t want to reinforce that defiling the Capitol was OK. I don’t want to do anything that would make this more likely in the future.”

Former President Donald Trump and Sen. Lindsey Graham.
Former President Donald Trump and Sen. Lindsey Graham. (Photo illustyration: Yahoo News; photos: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images, Manuel Balce/AP)

Graham, who briefly ran for the Republican nomination for president in 2016, turned from an impassioned Trump critic during that year’s primaries to one of his most stalwart supporters in Congress. After criticizing Trump’s behavior before and during the Capitol riot, saying “he’d never been so humiliated and embarrassed for the country,” Graham quickly retreated from that criticism after spending time with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort last winter.

In an interview with Fox News last month, the South Carolina Republican warned that GOP lawmakers like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have to get along with Trump or face the consequences.

“If you want to be a Republican leader in the House or the Senate, you have to have a working relationship with President Donald Trump. He’s the most consequential Republican since Ronald Reagan. It’s his nomination if he wants it, and I think he’ll get reelected in 2024,” Graham said.

“I’m not going to vote for anybody for leader of the Senate as a Republican unless they can prove to me that they can advocate an ‘American First’ agenda and have a working relationship with President Trump, because if you can’t do that, you will fail,” he added.

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally at a podium with a microphone and sign that reads: Save America
Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Conroe, Texas, on Saturday. (Photo by Sergio Flores/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

More than 700 people have been charged by the Justice Department with crimes related to Jan. 6, when a violent mob of Trump supporters — fueled by his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen — stormed the Capitol as Congress was in the process of certifying President Biden’s victory. The attack left multiple people dead and more than 140 police officers injured.

At least 165 of those charged have pleaded guilty, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. About 70 have been sentenced — and 31 have received prison time.

In his interview with Newsmax, Trump suggested that “many” of the rioters were innocent.

“Some of these people are not guilty. Many of these people are not guilty. What they’ve done to these — and in many cases they’re patriots. They’re soldiers, they’re policemen,” Trump fumed.

“What they’ve done to them, compared to what they’ve done to the other side? You know, you have to have equal justice. So I would absolutely be prepared — Lindsey Graham doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about if he said that because you have to have equal justice. It’s very, very unfair what’s happened to this group of people.”

He added: “I would absolutely give them a pardon if things don’t work out fairly.”