WASHINGTON – Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham, a close ally of Donald Trump, called for more sanctions on Russia and criticized presidential adviser Jared Kushner’s statements downplaying the significance of that country’s interference in the 2016 election.
“I like Jared a lot, but he’s leaving out a big detail,” Graham said on the CBS show “Face the Nation,” noting that Russia hacked into the emails of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign. “Can you imagine what we would be saying if the Russians or the Iranians hacked into the presidential team of the Republican Party?”
Kushner, who is Trump’s son-in-law, characterized the Russians’ actions at an April 23 event as trying to “buy some Facebook ads to sow discontent.” He said that the investigations that followed had “had a much harsher impact” on U.S democracy.
“No, this is a big deal. It’s not just a few Facebook ads,” Graham said on CBS. “An attack on one party should be an attack on all.”
Trump previously has questioned the extent of Russia’s role in election interference, and Graham said he has told Trump that “everything we’ve done with the Russians is not working” because “the Russians are up to it again.”
“We need more sanctions, not less,” Graham said. “Because clearly they don’t have the message.”
Graham defended Trump’s actions in the Russia investigation. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, released in redacted form this month, described 10 instances of possible obstruction of justice by the president but didn’t provide a conclusion.
“What President Trump did here was completely cooperate in an investigation,” Graham said. “I believe the president did nothing wrong. Whether you like him or not, I’ll leave up to you.”
Graham also disagreed with Trump’s suggestion in comments to reporters on April 26 that former Vice President Joe Biden, who announced his candidacy for president a day earlier, might be too old at 76 to win.
“If you travel with Joe Biden, you won’t think he’s too old,” Graham said, adding that he doesn’t know whether Biden fits the preferences of the current Democratic Party.
Still, Graham said of his former Senate colleague, “He’s a good man and he would be a strong candidate.”