The White House says it is not advocating to displace Vladimir Putin, in response to comments from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) suggesting the Russian president should be “taken out.”
Graham posted on Twitter Thursday that the only way the Russian conflict with Ukraine will end “is for somebody in Russia to take [Putin] out.”
“You would be doing your country—and the world—a great service,” Graham wrote.
Graham also compared Putin’s would-be assassin to Brutus, a Roman senator among those who killed Roman Emperor Julius Caesar on the Ides of March, and German Lt. Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, who tried unsuccessfully to kill Adolf Hitler in the summer of 1944.
“Is there a Brutus in Russia? Is there a more successful Colonel Stauffenberg in the Russian military?” Graham asked in the tweet.
He also made similar comments on Fox News Thursday night.
But White House press secretary Jen Psaki went against Graham’s comments during a press briefing Friday afternoon.
“That is not the position of the United States government and certainly not a statement you’d hear come from the mouth of anybody working in this administration,” Psaki said. “We are not advocating for killing the leader of a foreign country or regime change. That is not the policy of the United States.”
Psaki has said throughout the Russian invasion into Ukraine that “a door to diplomacy remains open” with respect to Putin.
She noted Friday that an internal review by the United States into whether Putin has committed war crimes as part of the invasion is “ongoing.” She says any evidence found will be submitted to the International Criminal Court and the U.N. as part of an international process.
Graham’s comments have also been condemned by some of his fellow members of Congress on both sides of the aisle.
“This is an exceptionally bad idea,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) posted on Twitter. “Use massive economic sanctions; BOYCOTT Russian oil & gas; and provide military aid so the Ukrainians can defend themselves. But we should not be calling for the assassination of heads of state.”
“I really wish our members of Congress would cool it and regulate their remarks as the administration works to avoid WWlll,” Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) wrote in a tweet. “As the world pays attention to how the US and it’s leaders are responding, Lindsey’s remarks and remarks made by some House members aren’t helpful.”
Graham’s communication director, Kevin Bishop, offered some clarity to the South Carolina Republican’s comments.
“Basic point, Putin has to go,” Bishop said in a Twitter post. “He also noted it will be—has to be—the Russian people who do it. They control the ‘off ramp’ to this ordeal.”