Trump impeachment: Lindsey Graham will 'not pretend to be a fair juror'

Martin Pengelly in New York
Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AP

Lindsey Graham will not try to “pretend to be a fair juror” should Donald Trump face an impeachment trial in the US Senate.

Related: Democrat Jeff Van Drew met Trump and will switch parties, sources say

Speaking at the Doha Forum in Qatar on Saturday, the South Carolina Republican and close Trump ally said he was “trying to give a pretty clear signal I have made up my mind. I’m not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here. What I see coming, happening today, is just a partisan nonsense.”

Trump faces two articles of impeachment arising from his attempts to have Ukraine carry out investigations favourable to his re-election campaign: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

A House vote is expected next week. If Trump is impeached, as is likely as Democrats hold the chamber, a trial will be held in the Senate in January. Republicans are in control there, few if any defections are likely and the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has said the president will not be convicted and removed.

The Kentuckian caused further anger among Democrats this week, when he said he was “taking my cues” from the White House regarding strategy for the trial.

In response, the Democratic minority leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, said in a statement: “If articles of impeachment are sent to the Senate, every single senator will take an oath to render ‘impartial justice’.

Making sure the Senate conducts a fair and honest trial that allows all the facts to come out is paramount

Chuck Schumer

“Making sure the Senate conducts a fair and honest trial that allows all the facts to come out is paramount.”

Graham disagrees.

“This thing will come to the Senate,” he said on Saturday, “and it will die quickly, and I will do everything I can to make it die quickly.”

Graham is familiar with the impeachment process and how the Senate stages a trial, having been a House manager for the Republicans in the impeachment of Bill Clinton.

Asked if it was appropriate for him as a prospective juror to be discussing the case in such terms, he said: “Well, I must think so because I’m doing it.”

He added: “Personally I think President Trump will come out of this stronger and the good news is that everybody in politics in America needs to prove to the American public we’re not all completely crazy. So there may be a spirit of compromise coming post-impeachment, born of political necessity, if anything else.”

Graham said Joe Biden, a target of Trump’s alleged scheming, was a friend and would “do very well” in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. But he also implied that Biden’s son’s involvement with a Ukrainian energy company was corrupt.

There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden, as there is no evidence of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election, the other hobby horse pushed by Trump and his Republican backers.

Witnesses in impeachment hearings held by the House intelligence committee outlined the scheme which Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani are alleged to have orchestrated the withholding of nearly $400m in military aid to Ukraine and a White House meeting.

The House judiciary panel heard from legal scholars on the constitutional grounds for impeachment, before producing the articles to be voted on in a process subject to Republican protest and obstruction.

“I think the best thing for America to do is get this behind us,” Graham said.

“If you don’t like President Trump, you can vote against him in less than a year. It’s not like a politician is unaccountable if you don’t impeach them. So I think impeachment is going to end quickly in the Senate. I would prefer it to end as quickly as possible.”

Donald Trump waves as he sits with Navy midshipmen in Philadelphia. Photograph: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Graham was also asked about his own past opposition to Trump, when both men were running for the Republican presidential nomination.

Then, Graham famously called Trump a “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot”.

Related: Trump/Netanyahu: Israel, America and the rise of authoritarianism-lite

“I said all of those things,” he said in Doha. “Clearly, I wasn’t a fan of his campaign, right? But here’s the way it has to work. When you lose, accept it. The American people didn’t believe that. They made him their president.”

In other developments, multiple sources told news outlets Jeff van Drew, a New Jersey Democrat opposed to impeachment, met Trump at the White House and was set to switch parties. A vulnerable representative from a swing seat, his defection would not affect the chances of impeachment being improved by the House.

It was also reported that Trump, who attended the Army v Navy football game in Philadelphia, was still mulling who would represent him at the Senate trial.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone “is expected to take lead”, Maggie Haberman of the New York Times tweeted, citing “a person familiar with the talks”.

“But it isn’t done yet. Trump has still been quizzing people about who should do it, and has wondered about Cipollone’s lack of experience on TV.”