OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina prodded Capitol Police officers to use their firearms to “take back the Senate’ during the Jan. 6 riot, though protesters who breached the building during the incident were unarmed.
“What are you doing? Take back the Senate! You’ve got guns. Use them,” Graham reportedly told officers according to a lengthy Washington Post report. The paper went on to say that Graham was “irate” that he and the other senators were ushered out of their chamber as rioters stormed the building.
“We give you guns for a reason,” Graham was reported as saying. “Use them.”
The Post reported that the quotes came from another unnamed Republican senator who had knowledge of the incident.
The paper added:
The Senate and House leaders also had been evacuated by Capitol Police and taken to an undisclosed location, but many lawmakers remained in their chambers for a few minutes before they were led to safety in the Hart Senate Office Building. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham was irate that senators were forced to flee their own chamber. He yelled at the Senate sergeant-at-arms. “What are you doing? Take back the Senate! You’ve got guns. Use them.” The South Carolina senator was adamant. “We give you guns for a reason,” he repeated. “Use them.”
Warner was furious with Bowdich and demanded he come to Capitol Hill immediately to brief the Intelligence Committee members, who were hunkered down in the Hart Building. Bowdich said he couldn’t do that, as he was still overseeing the FBI’s emergency response. Bowdich did speak privately with Warner later that day after the chaos had ended, but it would take weeks to repair the relationship.
In a statement to Fox News, Graham’s office confirmed that the quotes attributed to him are “accurate.”
“Graham was quite clear on this point, noting that the backpacks and other items brought into the Capitol could have contained bombs and explosives. The damage could have been much, much worse,” said Graham’s communications director, Kevin Bishop, according to the network.
The South Carolina senator was an early critic of the storming of the Capitol. He said on Jan. 7, the following day, that police should have used “warning shots” to ward off rioters, but that after they breached the building “lethal force should have been used once they’d penetrated the seat of government.”
“Yesterday they could have blown the building up. They could have killed us all,” he said at the time. “People coming through the windows had backpacks, as big as my desk on the Senate.
“They should have been challenged, warning shots should have been fired and lethal force should have been used once they’d penetrated the seat of government. Those backpacks could have had bombs chemical agents, weapons. We dodged a major bullet yesterday,” he said.
Graham also cited rioting directed at a federal courthouse in Portland, Ore., in the summer and fall of 2020, saying that such violence only “gets worse” if nothing is done to stop it — and nothing much was, until then-President Donald Trump ordered additional federal law enforcement to the building to protect it.
“We’ve lost our will and our determination to stand up for law and order. When you let a courthouse be attacked and nobody gets prosecuted, the next thing you know, it gets worse. To all the mayors out there who have discord and unlawful behavior in your city, get on top of it,” Graham said then.