Politics & Government

GOP should back Trump if emergency declared to build border wall, Graham says

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks at First Monday in Greenville on Feb. 4, 2019.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks at First Monday in Greenville on Feb. 4, 2019. Greenville News

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham says fellow Republicans should support President Donald Trump if he declares a national emergency to build a wall along the nation’s southern border.

Speaking to the media Monday in Greenville, Graham said Trump may have to use an emergency declaration to build the wall because he doubts that Congress and the White House will reach an agreement on the issue.

Trump is seeking $5.7 billion for construction of a border wall. Democrats have balked at his request. The dispute triggered a recent partial shutdown of the federal government that lasted for more than a month.

“I am not very optimistic that we’re going to get a deal,” said Graham, a Republican from Seneca. “I will stand with him to go it alone if he has to.”

Trump voiced a similar sentiment last week, saying, “There is a good chance we’ll have to do that.”

Graham warned Monday that an emergency declaration could spark a “war within the Republican Party.” His comments came after The Washington Post and other media outlets reported the top Republican in the U.S. Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, told Trump that bypassing Congress on the wall could cause a rift within the GOP.

“Any Republican who denies the president the ability to act as commander in chief, you’re going to create a real problem within the party,” Graham said.

“It is important that we stand behind President Trump as commander in chief to secure a broken border. Drugs, crime, all kinds of things are coming across the border. ... I’ll be really disappointed if my Senate colleagues do not understand that the president has the right to do this and the responsibility to do this.”

Graham said that a newly formed 12,000-person caravan is headed toward the southern border.

“Without a wall, you’re going to entice people to keep coming,” Graham said before speaking to a First Monday GOP event at Greenville’s Poinsett Club.

‘Defining moment’ of Trump presidency

During his speech, Graham said the fate of the border wall will be “the defining moment of this presidency.”

Graham, who took over last month as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he will use his position to try to win confirmation of conservative judges.

He recalled the national attention that he received last year for his fiery denunciation of tactics that Democratic senators used in an effort to block the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“What did we learn from Kavanaugh? It is not about Trump — it is about us. They hate us,” Graham said. “What happened with Kavanaugh was the low point for me in my time in the United States Senate. What they tried to do this guy is unconscionable.”

Graham also spoke at length about his support for Trump. The two men were rivals on the campaign trail in 2015 but since have become political allies on many issues.

“I like what he’s done for the military. I love what he’s doing with our economy, and I am very proud of him when it comes to judges,” Graham said. “So I am going to help him. I am going to support him. I am going to endorse him. I’m all in for trying to make him be the most consequential president of our lifetime, not because he’s a Republican but because he’s president at a time that really matters.”

Graham fielded a few questions, including one asking what has surprised him most about Trump.

“For a guy who talks a lot and has something to say about everything, he is an amazingly good listener,” Graham said.

Graham also said that most people don’t realize that Trump is in “awe of this job.”

He told the audience about riding with Trump and his wife, first lady Melania Trump, to Kavanaugh’s swearing-in ceremony at the Supreme Court. At one point, Graham said, Trump told him to look back at the U.S. Capitol.

Graham said that Trump then asked him, “Can you believe we’re doing this?”

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