US Republican senator Lindsey Graham’s warning that prosecution of former President Donald Trump over his mishandling of classified documents would trigger “riots in the streets” constitutes a threat to the US Justice Department, according to a report.
Graham’s prediction on Sunday “added an element of menace to the fraught decisions” facing Justice Department officials, a report in New York Times stated.
It comes as Trump is being investigated by the US Department of Justice over his mishandling of classified documents after he left office in January 2021.
Under the investigation, FBI agents used a warrant to search through Trump’s personal property at his sprawling Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida on August 8.
Officers retrieved 11 sets of classified files at Trump’s residence, including four that were marked “top secret/SCI,” one of the highest levels of classification in the US government.
It is still unclear why Trump took those documents with him after leaving the White House, but the search warrant used in the raid, which was recently unsealed, showed that prosecutors believed the former president had violated several laws, including the Espionage Act.
Graham, previously a fierce critic of Trump, has recently turned into his supporter, drawing a comparison between the investigation of Trump and the Justice Department’s decision in 2016 not to prosecute former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for using a private server for her official communications.
“If they try to prosecute President Trump for mishandling classified information after Hillary Clinton set up a server in her basement, there literally will be riots in the street. I worry about our country,” he was quoted as saying by Fox News.
In 2019, a State Department inquiry into the server concluded that there was "no persuasive evidence of systemic, deliberate mishandling of classified information.”
Graham also referred to what he termed the failure of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to probe President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, over his possible tax and foreign lobbying violations.
Kevin Bishop, a spokesman for Graham, jumped in defense of the senator on Monday, saying he was making a "prediction", not a threat.
Graham also appeared on Monday and sought to clarify his remarks, saying he "rejects violence" and that he is "not calling for violence" while hastening to add that "there will be a lot of upset people” if the former president is charged.
Graham once again raised the case of Clinton, saying the country "cannot live with this kind of double standard".
"I thought what she did was bad, but she got a pass at the end of the day," he remarked.
“Still, raising the prospect of rioting came as Trump supporters’ threats against law enforcement have crescendoed,” the Times report stated, referring to the killing of one of Trump’s supporters earlier this month when he tried to breach the FBI’s office in Cincinnati.