Graham Beaufort County Republicans impeachment

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., addresses attendees at the Beaufort County Republican Party dinner on Friday, Sept. 27. Graham defended President Donald Trump, who is now facing an impeachment inquiry after a whistleblower complaint claims Trump pushed the president of Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son during a July 25 phone call. Caitlin Byrd/Staff

BLUFFTON — South Carolina's two Republican senators sought to discredit the whistleblower complaint that has spurred an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. 

Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott separately came to the same conclusion Friday, calling the complaint "hearsay" and questioning the validity of the claims.

"It's over the top," Graham told The Post and Courier on Friday night moments before he was set to give the keynote address at a Beaufort County Republican Party dinner.

Graham tried to make light of the serious impeachment inquiry surrounding a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

"Salem witch trials had more due process than this," Graham told the audience.

Scott, who was in Washington on Friday, broke his silence about the explosive political accusation that has dominated Washington this week. He questioned the credibility of the complaint because the whistleblower was not personally on the call.

"He's not really a whistleblower, so it's really more hearsay,"  Scott told reporters in Washington, according to reports from multiple news outlets.

"If we’re talking about someone who actually is not a whistleblower, someone who’s only heard it — hearsay — then that brings everything into question," he said in the reports.

Their staunch defense of the president Friday punctuated what has been one of the most tumultuous weeks for the Trump administration yet.

On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced the formal impeachment inquiry into Trump.

On Thursday came the declassification and release of the nine-page complaint that alleged Trump pushed the president of Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.

Both Scott and Graham echoed the president's frustrations about the complaint, but in milder tones.

Trump attacked the whistleblower in a closed-door meeting Thursday, calling him "close to a spy" and suggesting the action was an act of treason, according to audio obtained by both the New York Times and the Washington Post.

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However, the president's comments clashed with the congressional testimony given by acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire. 

"I believe that the whistleblower and the inspector general have acted in good faith throughout. I have every reason to believe that they have done everything by the book and followed the law," Maguire said Thursday during his three hours of testimony before a key House committee.

Graham also said the House needs to vote on an inquiry of impeachment if they are truly concerned.

And he should know. In 1999, during his third term in the House of Representatives, Graham helped lead the impeachment trial against President Bill Clinton. 

"I voted on one. I put my name by it," he said, before criticizing one of South Carolina's Democrats for not declaring where he stands. "I like Joe Cunningham. He's a fine fellow, but he needs to vote." 

Before wrapping up his remarks in Bluffton, Graham told attendees he had to get back to Washington. He had plans to golf with Trump on Saturday morning.

They would, Graham affirmed, talk about "what's going on with the whistleblower."

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Political Reporter

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.