Lindsey Graham Defends Himself from Democrats Amid Impeachment Trial: 'I'm Covering Up Nothing! I'm Exposing Your Hatred'

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) railed against what called a Democratic "crusade" against President Donald Trump at a Senate impeachment press conference on Wednesday. He also rejected allegations that he is taking part in a Republican "cover-up" to protect the president.

Graham reacted angrily to Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler's assertion, made during day 2 of the Senate impeachment trial, that "a lot of senators [are] voting for a cover-up, voting to deny witnesses." Graham insisted he was exposing Democratic "hatred" of Trump rather than engaging in a cover-up by refusing to allow witnesses in the trial.

"To my Democratic colleagues, you can say what you want about me, but I'm covering up nothing," said Graham. "I'm exposing your hatred of this president, to the point that you would destroy the institution. Nobody would be saying this about a Democratic president if a Republican house had done this."

The senator suggested that Democrats were on a reckless mission that aims to "destroy" Trump. The president has made frequent comments about his impeachment, which he has dismissed as a "witch hunt," but Graham urged him to ignore Democrats during the trial.

"If I were the president, I wouldn't cooperate with these guys at all," he added. "I wouldn't give them the time of day. They're on a crusade to destroy this man and they don't care what they destroy in the process of trying to destroy Donald Trump."

Graham has past experience with impeachment proceedings, having acted as a House manager in the impeachment trial of former President Bill Clinton. During that trial, he urged the Senate to remove Clinton from office. The Clinton trial included witness testimony, like every other impeachment trial conducted by the chamber to that point.

It is yet to be seen whether the impeachment trial of Trump will include witnesses, but Republicans have so far been resistant.

Although Graham urged Democrats to withhold judgement in the Clinton trial until all the evidence was presented, he has taken a different view in the case of Trump. More than a month prior to the Senate trial, he openly proclaimed that he would "not pretend to be a fair juror," while vowing to "do everything I can to make [the Trump impeachment trial] die quickly."

Graham has established himself as one of the president's strongest supporters in recent years, but he was previously known as one of the harshest Republican critics of Trump. When the two ran against each other for the Republican nomination in 2016, Graham described Trump as a "race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot" during a CNN interview.

Shortly after Trump took office, Graham declared himself "all in" for the president. He has consistently defended Trump's conduct in the White House since then.

Sen. Lindsey Graham
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) speaking at a Senate news conference on January 22, 2020. Alex Wong/Getty