GOP Senators Slam Trump's 'Inappropriate' Pardons Remark

Graham, Romney, others blast Jan. 6 comment; Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley thread the needle
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 12, 2022 7:58 AM CDT
Graham on Trump's Jan. 6 Pardons Vow: 'Bad Idea'
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, is seen Aug. 18 in Columbia, SC.   (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

Earlier this month, former President Trump told a conservative radio host that, if he were elected to the Oval Office again, he'd offer "full pardons," along with a public apology to many of those who'd stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. Turns out a few GOP senators aren't quite on the same page as the former president, including Trump golf pal Lindsey Graham, who called that promise a "bad idea." "Pardons are given to people who admit misconduct, rehabilitate themselves," the South Carolina senator tells the Hill. "They're not supposed to be used for other purposes." He added that granting these pardons would only "[reinforce] violence."

Other Senate Republicans who agree with Graham include most of the Dakotas contingent: Kevin Cramer of North Dakota ("somewhat problematic for me on a moral level and an ethical level"); South Dakota's Mike Rounds ("I think there was insurrection and ... these folks need to be punished"); and another South Dakotan, Minority Whip John Thune. "The rule of law applies," he says. "If people broke laws, they need to be held accountable." Utah's Mitt Romney also weighed in, calling what happened on Jan. 6 "an attack on the temple of democracy," and Trump's comment on pardons "grossly inappropriate." Two Republican senators who are pausing on the question, however: Josh Hawley of Missouri, and Texas' Ted Cruz, who say there needs to be a separation between those who were violent at the Capitol and those who were peacefully protesting Biden's election.

They also slam what they say is a "double standard" on how the Justice Department is treating Jan. 6 rioters compared with how they treated rioters from 2020 Black Lives Matter protests. Nearly 850 people have been charged in the Jan. 6 attack, per Time; about 25% of them have received criminal sentences, with a median prison sentence of 45 days. But an August 2021 AP analysis found federal prosecutors have filed more than 300 cases related to protests after George Floyd's death, with at least 70 defendants sentenced to an average of 27 months. "The property damage or accusations of arson and looting from last year, those were serious and they were dealt with seriously, but they weren't an attack on the very core constitutional processes that we rely on in a democracy," Kent Greenfield of Boston College's Law School told the news outlet at the time. (Read more Donald Trump stories.)

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