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South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham spars with rowdy crowd at Columbia town hall

March 25, 2017 GMT

COLUMBIA — Questions about Russia and the collapse of the Republicans’ health care bill dominated a town hall with U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham on Saturday, with some attendees expressing concerns about his ties to embattled political consultant Richard Quinn.

Graham had a similar answer when asked about the investigation into potential ties between President Donald Trump and Russia as he did the state corruption probe involving Richard Quinn and Associates: let the investigators do their jobs.

“Here’s my belief: it goes where it goes,” Graham said of investigations into Russia. “No politician should stand in the way. We should let the FBI do their job and what happens, happens.”

On Quinn, who Graham has used for his campaigns over the years: “Richard Quinn has been a friend for a very long time and I don’t know what this is all about, but we’ll soon find out. Just stay out of the way and let it go where it goes.”

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For more than an hour Graham answered questions from a rowdy room of nearly 800 people at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, many of whom showed vocal concerns about health care and the direction Trump is taking the country.

“Everyone needs health care, from pre-natal on up,” Columbia resident Kathy Dickman said. She added that President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act has helped her in the years since she retired.

“I don’t agree (with Graham),” she said. “For him it’s explode and replace. We can’t do that. It’s the typical Republican stance — shut down health care.”

Dickman wore a shirt with “RIP Me” on the front as part of a “living cemetery” visual protest organized by the progressive group Indivisible Midlands to showcase their disapproval of the failed Republican health plan.

Graham said he believed the U.S. House Republicans’ failed attempt at replacing the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare, was the best way for things to turn out. After a scheduled attempt to secure a vote Friday, House Speaker Paul Ryan and the GOP pulled the bill.

“If the House had passed the bill that we were pushing in the House, I’m not so sure that it would have made things much better,” Graham said. “I don’t think one party is going to be able to fix this by themselves, so here’s what I think should happen next. I think the president should reach out to Democrats, I should reach out to Democrats, and we should say ‘let’s get a shot at doing this together, because it ain’t working doing it by ourselves.’”

Republican strategist Tony Denny was one of a handful of GOP attendees at the town hall. The Columbia resident said he thought Graham earned a lot of points with both liberals and conservatives by holding the event.

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“Clearly, this is his kind of forum,” Denny said. “He’s quick on his feet, he’s witty, he’s funny. He can disagree without being disagreeable. So he comes out on top with the folks in this room for engaging with them and with conservatives because he pushed back against the people in the room.”

Quinn’s name became more a part of the Statehouse corruption headlines earlier this month after state Sen. John Courson, R-Columbia, was indicted for allegedly funneling almost $250,000 from his campaign war chest through Quinn’s political consulting firm and receiving almost $133,000 of that back for personal use over six years, court documents said. Quinn has not been charged with wrongdoing and has called the allegations against Courson false.