Sen. Graham: WH asked me to keep mum on 9/11 trial

Josh Gerstein
November 13, 2009

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who led an effort last week to prevent the Obama Administration from doing just what it did today in directing prosecution of the alleged Sept. 11 plotters into federal court, says he’s keeping mum about that decision for now at the request of the White House.

“I have been asked by the White House to withhold comment about today’s Guantanamo decision until I can meet face-to-face with the President after he returns from Asia,” Graham said in a statement released by his office. “As our Commander in Chief, I will honor his request. I look forward to discussing this issue further.”

Graham’s silence on the issue today contrasts with the stance taken by many of his Republican colleagues, who wasted no time in blasting the administration. He also passed up the opportunity to dust off some of the pointed warnings he offered on the subject just eight days ago, when his amendment to ban civilian trials of the 9/11 plotters was voted down by the Senate on a 54-45 vote.

“Don’t watch this happen. Get on the record now, before it is too late, to tell the President we are not going to sit by as a body and watch the mastermind of 9/11 go into civilian court and criminalize this war. If he goes to Federal court, here is what awaits: a chaos zoo trial,” Graham warned during floor debate on his amendment. “To those who think it is no big deal to send Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to Federal court, I could not disagree with you more….What a mistake we would make.”

A White House spokesman did not respond to a question about Graham’s assertion that he was asked to withhold comment and about whether such requests were made to other lawmakers. It’s possible that the White House is trying to avoid a public brawl with Graham in part because it wants to seek his support for sending some Guantanamo prisoners to the Navy brig in Charleston, S.C. for military commissions or long-term detention.

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