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Trump rages against Graham on abortion, in a rare break between allies

Former President Donald Trump steps out of 40 Wall Street, in New York City, following his press conference after a pre-trial hearing at Manhattan criminal court, on March 25, 2024.    (Andrea Renault/ZUMA Press Wire/TNS)
By Mariana Alfaro Washington Post

Former president Donald Trump lashed out at Sen. Lindsey O. Graham, R-S.C., on Monday after Graham expressed public disagreement with Trump’s latest statement on his abortion position.

“I blame myself for Lindsey Graham, because the only reason he won in the Great State of South Carolina is because I Endorsed him!” Trump said in one of several posts shared on Truth Social, his social media site, in which he targeted one of his top allies in Congress.

Trump, in a video published Monday morning, said the issue of abortion access should be left to the states after the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022. Despite pressure on his campaign by antiabortion groups, the former president did not endorse any efforts to establish a federal limit on abortion - including a bill by Graham that would ban abortions after 15 weeks.

Throughout Monday afternoon, Trump raged at Graham in post after post on the social media platform after Graham said he “respectfully” disagreed with Trump’s conclusions about abortion policy.

Graham, in posts shared on X, argued that the court’s ruling on Roe “does not require that conclusion legally.”

“The states’ rights only rationale today runs contrary to an American consensus that would limit late-term abortions and will age about as well as the Dred Scott decision,” Graham said. “The science is clear - a child at fifteen weeks is well-developed and is capable of feeling pain.”

Graham has been a staunch proponent of federal limits on abortions. Most recently, he’s pushed for a ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy following the overturning of Roe, and has tried guiding fellow Republicans to consensus on the issue.

Trump made clear on Monday that he did not appreciate Graham’s feedback. In one post, Trump said Graham was “doing a great disservice to the Republican Party, and to our country” by opposing his views on abortion policy and said the senator should spend more time working on securing the border. Trump suggested Graham’s criticism was playing into the hands of Democrats.

“The Democrats are thrilled with Lindsey, because they want this issue to simmer for as long a period of time as possible,” Trump said.

In another post, Trump argued that, by allowing states to make their own abortion laws, “we have taken the Abortion Issue largely out of play.”

“We cannot let our Country suffer any further damage by losing Elections on an issue that should always have been decided by the States, and now will be,” Trump said.

Speaking to reporters at the Capitol on Monday, Graham said he has been “very consistent” about his views on abortion policy, and argued that his 15-week ban bill is “designed to prevent abortions except for rape, incest, life of the mother.”

“The pro-life movement, I told the president, is not about geography - it’s about the child,” Graham said. “If you believe the pro-life movement is about the well-being of the child, you shouldn’t be limited by geography.”

Graham said he last spoke to Trump about abortion about “a week or so” ago.

In his posts, Trump also took credit for ending Roe - a ruling made possible thanks to the three conservative justices that Trump appointed to the Supreme Court. He said many antiabortion conservatives, including Graham, had for years been unable to overturn the landmark Supreme Court case that established the right to abortion access until he “came along and got the job done.”

While Graham’s position on abortion is not new, the senator’s criticism of Trump marked a rare break between the two in recent years.

Though Graham and Trump were once political rivals - Graham mounted a brief bid for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination and during the race warned Republicans against nominating Trump for president - the South Carolina Republican cozied up to Trump once he became the clear leader of the Republican Party. Graham emerged as a fierce defender of Trump in the Senate and followed the president’s lead in his isolationist ideology - despite being a longtime foreign policy hawk.

Graham voted against sending more aid to Ukraine in February, despite previously promising Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “do more” to help the nation as it fights off Russia’s invasion. Speaking on the Senate floor at the time, the South Carolina senator explained that he had spoken to Trump about the aid package - which would have sent military funding to Ukraine, Israel and U.S. allies in the Indo-Pacific - and the former president had told him he’s “dead against this package.”

Monday’s dispute between Graham and Trump surprised some Republicans, but it wasn’t the first time they’ve bickered. Trump similarly lashed out at the Republican senator after Graham said those who participated in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol should be prosecuted.

“Well, Lindsey Graham’s wrong. I mean, Lindsey’s a nice guy, but he’s a RINO,” Trump said in a February 2022 interview on Newsmax, using the acronym for “Republican in name only,” a term used by Republicans to insult those they don’t believe belong in the party.

In his long-winded criticism of Graham on Monday, Trump made no note of the senator’s staunch support in the Senate on a range of issues and instead doubled down on his attacks against him. He even suggested that Graham go back and “study the 10th Amendment and States’ Rights.”