Richard Burr’s vote to convict Donald Trump did not bring down the former president but it may have made Lara Trump “almost certain” to be nominated for the US Senate, key Trump ally Lindsey Graham said on Sunday.
“Certainly I would be behind her because she represents the future of the Republican party,” the South Carolina senator said of the former president’s daughter-in-law, adding that the future should be “Trump-plus”.
Burr, a former chair of the Senate intelligence committee, will retire as a senator from North Carolina at the end of his current term.
On Saturday, he and six other Republicans voted to convict Trump on a charge of insurrection linked to the US Capitol attack – the most votes ever cast to convict a president by senators from their own party.
Burr’s state Republican party condemned what it called his “shocking and disappointing” vote.
Lara Trump is married to Eric Trump, the former president’s second son. She has been reported to be interested in running for Senate in her native state.
“The biggest winner I think of this whole impeachment trial is Lara Trump,” Graham told Fox News Sunday. “My dear friend Richard Burr, who I like and I’ve been friends to a long time, just made Lara Trump almost a certain nominee for the Senate seat in North Carolina to replace him if she runs.
“Now certainly I would be behind her because she represents the future of the Republican party.”
In 2016, Graham famously predicted Trump would “destroy” the GOP if he was made its nominee for president. Once Trump won power, the senator switched to become one of his biggest boosters.
On Sunday, in an interview in which he occasionally spoke directly to the former president, he said his party should be “Trump-plus”, because “the most potent force in the Republican party is President Trump”.
“And at the end of the day I’ve been involved in politics for over 25 years,” Graham said. “The president is a handful and what happened [at the Capitol] on 6 January was terrible for the country. But he’s not singularly to blame. Democrats have sat on the sidelines and watched the country being burned down for a year and a half and not said a damn word, and most Republicans are tired of the hypocrisy.”
On Saturday, Graham first voted against the calling of witnesses in the impeachment trial, then switched to support it. After a deal was done to avoid that step, he voted to acquit.
Other Trump family members have been linked to runs for office. For example, the Florida senator Marco Rubio is widely expected to face a primary challenge from Ivanka Trump, the former president’s oldest daughter.
Lara Trump, 38, is a former personal trainer and TV producer who became a key campaign surrogate. Among other controversies, she claimed Joe Biden was suffering “cognitive decline” and mocked his stutter. She earned widespread rebuke.
“These words come without hesitation,” Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the airline pilot and all-American hero who also stuttered as a child, wrote in the New York Times.
“Stop. Grow up. Show some decency. People who can’t have no place in public life.”