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Ep. 4: The Corruption of Lindsey Graham

July 24, 2023
Notes
Transcript

After the 2018 midterms, Lindsey Graham moved to a new stage of collaboration with Trump. Graham was no longer just protecting him from accountability—he began helping Trump to usurp power. The Bulwark Podcast presents The Corruption of Lindsey Graham, with Will Saletan.

Listen to Episode 5.

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This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:09
    On November twenty sixth twenty eighteen, senator Lindsey Graham got a treat. For two years, Graham had been defending president Donald Trump’s corruption. Now Graham was getting a well earned thank you. He was being invited to share the stage with Trump at a campaign rally. Gram had said a lot of bad things about Trump in twenty fifteen and twenty sixteen, that Trump was barbaric, a demagogue, and a race baiting xenophobic religious bigot.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:41
    And all of that was true. But now those unpleasant words were long forgotten. Graham had recanted his criticisms of Trump. In the midterm elections, Gram had campaigned successfully to defeat many of Trump’s democratic enemies in the senate. And Graham had thrilled the president’s followers, by excoriating Democrats during the confirmation hearings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:08
    At the November twenty sixth rally in Tupelo, miss Pacific. Trump lambasted illegal immigrants and what he called the Russian witch hunt. He hailed Graham as a star and he summoned him to the podium.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:21
    But this man said some brilliant and beautiful and warm from the heart words that really helped us get a great Supreme Court justice senator Lindsey Graham. He’s here. Where is he? Come. Come.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:38
    Come. Come here. He’s become my friend, actually. He’s become my friend.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:48
    The crowd cheered and Graham beamed. Graham had finally earned Trump’s love. He was earning the love of Trump’s voters too. These were the voters Graham had shunned as haters in twenty fifteen, but now they welcomed Gram because he was giving them exactly what they wanted, resentment, wrath, and vilification of Trump’s opponents. As Trump polarized America, this enthusiasm from his fan base galvanized Republican allegiance to the president.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:22
    Some Republicans in congress had been with him from the beginning. Others had fallen in line when he captured the nomination or when he became president. And then there were others worn down by Trump’s aggression who had eventually surrendered to exhaustion or fear. But as Trump’s base became the party’s base, there was one more reason to give in. Republican politician who embraced the president, would be loved.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:50
    And the more fiercely these politicians reviled Trump’s enemies, and defended his abuse of power, the more love they would get. This is the corruption of Lindsey Graham. Presented by the Bulwark podcast. I’m your host, Will Salatin. Four days after that rally in Mississippi, Graham spoke at a Republican breakfast in South Carolina.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:30
    The fight over Kavanaugh, he told the crowd. Was just one battle in a great war against Trump’s enemies. Every republican had to stand with the president, said Graham, because any attack on the president was an attack on all conservatives. What Democrats wanted Gram told the audience was, quote, to destroy us. As Graham traveled his home state that winter, This was his message to Republicans.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:59
    In the struggle between Trump and the Democrats, there could be no middle ground. Democrats were vicious and had to be defeated. Here’s Graham speaking to a Republican audience in Greenville, South Sarah Longwell, on February fourth twenty nineteen.
  • Speaker 3
    0:04:15
    What did we learn from Kavanaugh? It’s not about Trump, it’s about us. They hate us. So what did that tell me? They won’t power way too much.
  • Speaker 3
    0:04:32
    There’s nothing they won’t do when it comes to these kind of issues.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:38
    In the old days, Graham hadn’t talked this way. He had often worked with Democrats on legislation. He still would, but something had changed. Graham had decided or at least had decided to tell himself that something about the Kavanaugh fight justified a more adamant allegiance to Trump. Politically, this was the shrewd play.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:03
    Gram was up for reelection in twenty twenty, and he needed Trump’s voters to win his primary. But that didn’t fully explain Graham’s behavior. Even after his reelection, Graham never went back to equivocating about Trump. And he wasn’t alone. This transformation was happening across the whole Republican Party.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:27
    In Trump’s first two years, Many Republicans in congress had felt obliged to explain or answer for the president’s misconduct. Often, they had acknowledged inconvenient facts or legal constraints that stood in Trump’s way. But over time, fatigue, partisan anger, and political necessity, had hardened these Republicans. They were developing the indifference necessary to protect a tire What these politicians needed was a rationale for this increasingly militant devotion. So they began to convince themselves that the president’s enemies were the greater threat.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:08
    More and more Republicans told one another and came to believe that Democrats would do anything to destroy the country. And that paranoid fantasy gave Republicans the justification they needed to do anything in Trump’s defense. This emerging Republican mentality of all out war on behalf of the president. Played a central role in the next phase of Trump’s authoritarian escalation. The president was going to seize by emergency declaration powers that were constitutionally reserved to Congress.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:54
    Here’s how it happened. On December eleventh, twenty eighteen, Trump summoned representative Nancy Pelosi Ron DeSantis Chuck Schumer. The Democratic leaders in the House and Senate respectively, to the White House. He told them that he would shut down the government unless Congress authorized money for a wall on the Mexican border. In fact, Trump said that if Democrats in Congress didn’t give him the money, he would order the military to build the wall.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:26
    The Democrats refused, so Trump did force the government to shut down. And then, on January fourth twenty nineteen, he threatened to officially declare a national emergency that would allow him to bypass congress and unilaterally pay for the wall. Now before Trump became president, Gram had opposed this kind of executive overreach. He had pointed out that it was unconstitutional. But now that Trump was president, Graham said it was fine.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:59
    In a statement, Graham told the president, quote, Democrats will do everything in their power, to stop Trump. Mister President, declare a national emergency now. Build a wall now. Gram told his Democratic colleagues that they had no choice but to surrender to the president. We’re gonna build a wall one way or the other, he told them.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:24
    And in an interview with Sean Hannity on January thirtieth, Graham raised his finger and issued a warning to lawmakers in his own party.
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:33
    While they’re there, he has all the power in the world to do this to my republican colleagues stand behind him. Exactly. It’s good for the country. And if you don’t, you’re going to pay a price. Good to see you.
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:45
    Thank you
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:45
    so much. That warning reflected an ominous turn in Graham’s thinking about Trump as an instrument of fear. Back in twenty fifteen and twenty sixteen, Gram had recognized Trump’s despotic personality as a danger to the United States. Then in twenty seventeen and twenty eighteen, Gram had found a good use for the president’s bullying, scaring foreign adversaries. Graham had warned those adversaries to comply with Trump’s demands, or else.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:17
    But now, Graham had moved on from just threatening foreign governments. Now, the adversaries Graham wanted to intimidate were his own colleagues, and Trump was his weapon.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:39
    The wall
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:45
    fight marked a new stage of Graham’s collaboration with the president. Graham was no longer just protecting Trump from accountability. He was helping Trump usurp power. The constitution prohibits federal spending without congressional authorization. President who served before Trump, had on occasion issued emergency declarations, but never to override the will of congress.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:12
    Despite this, Graham said Republicans had to stand with Trump against the democrats because the democrats in Graham’s words were trying, quote, to destroy America as we know it. Some Republican senators worried about the implications for constitutional democracy, What would happen they asked if presidents began to commandeer the treasury routinely, or if they issued declarations of emergency, to enact other policies they couldn’t pass through Congress. Graham told his colleagues not to fuss about that. Here he is on Hannity’s radio show dismissing their concerns about runaway executive power.
  • Speaker 4
    0:10:53
    So to all my republican colleagues who worry out the precedent we’re setting for the future and the legal nicesties, here’s what I would say. It’s not what a Democrat may do in the future should drive your thinking, is whether or not this president is right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:08
    Even if the emergency declaration was likely to be found unconstitutional, said Graham. Republicans should still support it at least for now because it was politically useful. If the courts were to block Trump’s move, Gram argued. It would be, quote, a great issue for twenty nineteen and twenty twenty. So on February fifteenth, Trump did it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:32
    He declared an emergency to take money for the wall. What was the emergency? Trump claimed falsely that America was under attack.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:43
    So we’re going to be signing today and registry, national emergency. Because we have an invasion of drugs, invasion of invasion of people, and it’s unacceptable.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:01
    Can we just pause here for a minute to reflect on what was happening at this point? This was the president of the United States. Not the president of Russia or Venezuela or Syria. This was our president declaring that our country was under attack. And on that fabricated basis, he was overriding the constitution and the will of congress to do as he pleased.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:32
    Sixteen states filed suit against Trump’s power grab. They asked the third branch of our government, the courts, to step in. Did Graham agree that the judiciary should stop the president from usurping power? Nope. Just the opposite.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:50
    Graham began to think not about how the courts could protect democracy, but about how Trump could manipulate the courts. In a radio interview on February twenty second, Hugh Hewitt urged Graham to consider expediting the confirmation of Trump’s judicial nominees so they would be in place on the ninth circuit court of appeals when the lawsuit over Trump’s power grab came before that court. And Graham told Hewitt that he and his republican colleagues in the Senate were already working on that. He said they were quote, thinking about changing the rules to speed up the confirmation process. Then two weeks after that interview, Graham explained to Hannity, how Trump could argue in court, that the president had congressional approval to seize the money, even though in fact he didn’t.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:43
    To stop Trump, Congress would have to pass a resolution of disapproval. The president would then veto that resolution. If either chamber of congress failed to muster the two thirds majority that was necessary to override the veto, the resolution would fail. Graham argued that even though majorities of both chambers of Congress opposed to the emergency declaration, the absence of a super majority against Trump. That is the absence of a two thirds majority.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:16
    Meant that Congress was in effect giving its consent. Here’s how Graham explained it in the interview.
  • Speaker 5
    0:14:22
    We’re not gonna get anywhere near sixty seven votes disapproving the emergency declaration. So he’s gonna win in both houses of Congress. And when it goes to court, what the president will say, wait a minute. Congress did act. They they disproved the resolution.
  • Speaker 5
    0:14:38
    I vetoed it, and the congress sustained my veto. That’s acting. I think he’s gonna
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:44
    win it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:44
    Let’s be clear about what Graham was advocating here. This was an authoritarian pact between the executive and a faction of congress. The president backed by one third of one chamber, that’s all he needed according to Graham. Would seize powers constitutionally reserved to Congress. And the judiciary, having been stacked by the president through expedited judicial confirmations, would stand back and accept it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:16
    And that’s pretty much what happened. The House and the Senate voted to invalidate the emergency declaration. On March fifteenth, Trump vetoed their attempt to stop him. And because enough Republican lawmakers stood with the president, Congress failed to override the veto. Three months after that confrontation.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:38
    In a five to four ruling, the Supreme Court allowed Trump to proceed with the wall. And which justice gave the president that fifth vote? You guessed it. Brett Kavanaugh.
  • Speaker 6
    0:16:06
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    0:16:56
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    0:17:34
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    0:17:58
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  • Speaker 1
    0:18:05
    During that fight over the border wall, Robert Mueller, the special counsel, was finishing up his report on the Russia investigation. It had taken Mueller almost two years to complete his work. And during those two years, the Republican Party had changed. Lindsey Graham and his Republican colleagues hadn’t just moved their goalposts to accommodate Trump’s various attempts at collusion and obstruction of justice. They had become political zombies marching in lockstep with the president.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:37
    They were completely unwilling to face unwelcome facts. So when Mueller turned in his report in March of twenty nineteen, Graham didn’t just fudge the parts he didn’t like. He completely lied. Here are just a couple of examples. And the conclusion was firm without equivocation that no one on the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:05
    When it came to the twenty sixteen election.
  • Speaker 3
    0:19:07
    Mister Mueller said there was no evidence of collusion between president Trump or anybody on his campaign with the Russians period.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:18
    That’s just complete fiction. Mueller’s report actually detailed several channels of attempted collusion. One was the Trump Tower meeting. In which Trump’s senior campaign officials had met with Russian emissaries to hear what had been advertised to them in emails explicitly as an offer of campaign help from the Russian government. The report also found that Trump and his aides had tried to coordinate their campaign activities with WikiLeaks stumps of damaging material that had been hacked by the Russians from Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:57
    Furthermore, the report confirmed that in July twenty sixteen, after Trump went on TV and publicly invited Russia to find Clinton’s emails. Hackers affiliated with the Russian government, had tried to do exactly that. And Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, had passed internal documents from the Trump campaign, to an associate who was connected to Russian intelligence. Mueller also presented evidence of obstruction of justice. In addition to Trump’s coercion of FBI director James Comey, and Trump’s various attempts to fire Mueller.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:35
    The report showed that the president had told White house counsel, Don McGahn, to give false testimony. And in July twenty seventeen, Trump had instructed his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, to tell Jeff Sessions the attorney general to abort the Mueller investigation. According to Mueller’s report, Trump had told Lewandowski, quote, that if Sessions did not meet with Lewandowski, Lewandowski should tell Sessions he was fired. Gram completely lied about all of this. He told the press that according to the report, quote, there was no effort by Trump to impede the Mueller investigation.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:18
    Graham claimed falsely that Mueller had issued a verdict of no obstruction. And when Graham was asked about Trump’s explicit instruction to McGahn to Fire Mueller, Graham said, he didn’t care. Here’s Graham being pressed about that episode by Margaret Brennan on Face the Nation.
  • Speaker 7
    0:21:39
    But that directly contradicts sworn testimony that was in the Mueller report where Don McGahn said he almost quit. Yeah. He was so pressured to fire the special counsel.
  • Speaker 4
    0:21:48
    Well, that’s
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:48
    Who do
  • Speaker 7
    0:21:48
    you believe?
  • Speaker 3
    0:21:49
    I I think it’s just all theater. It doesn’t matter. I don’t care what he said to Don McGahn. It’s what he did. The president never obstructed.
  • Speaker 7
    0:21:56
    It doesn’t matter to you. Oh, I know. I’m changing. A version of the bench or have someone say line.
  • Speaker 3
    0:22:01
    If you’re gonna look at every president who pops off at a staff and, you know, ask him to do something. It’s maybe cray then we won’t have any precedence.
  • Speaker 7
    0:22:11
    But in terms of the firing, this was Don McGahn, the White House Council being pressured to fire the special counsel. But he didn’t.
  • Speaker 3
    0:22:17
    I don’t care don’t care what they talked about.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:21
    For weeks, Mueller watched Graham and other allies of the president mischaracterized his report. Finally, on May twenty ninth, Mueller spoke up. If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so, Mueller explained, hoping to clarify the record. Two months later, appearing before congress, Mueller testified that in his report, quote, the president was not exculpated for the acts that he allegedly committed. Mueller said it was up to congress to decide what to do with his report.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:57
    But when the House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed McGahn to testify about Trump’s obstruction. Trump defied the subpoena. The president blocked McGahn and other aids from testifying. And what did Graham say about Trump’s open defiance of Congress? Graham didn’t just condone the defiance.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:17
    He enthusiastically endorsed it. He encouraged the president to fight congressional democrats, quote, tooth and nail Here’s Graham on Fox and Friends, explaining why Trump’s cover up wasn’t really a cover up.
  • Speaker 3
    0:23:33
    Now, if he’s fighting the back against a bunch of crazy people to trying to destroy his life. That’s not covering anything up. The House Judiciary Committee is trying to retry the Mueller case. Mueller to me was the final word. They actually wanna go through everything and do it all over again and get a different outcome.
  • Speaker 3
    0:23:49
    You’re not covering anything up when you’re finding a bunch of politicians trying to destroy you and your family.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:54
    Right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:55
    When it’s important to understand here that Graham wasn’t just rejecting the house investigation. He was inventing justifications for anything Trump did or said. For example, the president having escaped prosecution was completely unrepentant about the Trump Tower meeting. In fact, he said that if he were to receive the same pitch again, an offer from Russia or China to provide damaging information about his political opponent. He would listen to that offer again.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:28
    And Trump ridiculed the idea of reporting it to the FBI. Listen to this exchange with ABC’s George Stefanopolis on June twelfth.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:36
    This is somebody that said, we have information on your opponent. Oh, let me call the FBI. Give me a break. Life doesn’t work out.
  • Speaker 4
    0:24:43
    The FBI director says that’s what should happen.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:45
    The FBI director is wrong.
  • Speaker 4
    0:24:48
    Your campaign this time, Brad, if foreigners, if Russia, if China, if someone else offers you information on opponents, should they accept it, or should they call the FBI?
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:56
    I think maybe you do both. I think you might wanna listen. I know there’s nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country, Norway, We have information on your opponent. Oh, I think I’d wanna hear it.
  • Speaker 4
    0:25:09
    You want that kind of interference in our elections?
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:11
    It’s not an interference. They have information. I think I’d take it if I thought
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:15
    Trump was directly contradicting what Graham had said just two years earlier. In July twenty seventeen, Graham who at that time was still sensible enough to be alarmed by the Trump Tower emails. Had read those emails aloud at a Senate hearing, Gram had emphasized that anyone who received such a message, quote, suggesting that a foreign government wants to help you by disparaging your opponent, should call the FBI. But now, two years later, Trump was openly deriding that rule, and Graham no longer had the courage or even the independent judgment to stand up to Trump. Gram had been reduced to a single reflex.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:01
    Whatever Trump does, find some way to justify it. So when ABC aired that exchange between Trump and Stefanopolis, Graham issued a new statement in which he argued that rejecting political offers from foreign governments, and reporting such offers to the FBI, quote, has not been recent practice. And in a Fox News interview, Graham said it was fine for Trump or anyone else to entertain offers from foreigners. You don’t call up the FBI every time somebody talks to you, said Graham.
  • Speaker 8
    0:26:51
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    0:27:10
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    0:27:48
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  • Speaker 1
    0:27:53
    There are two other episodes from this period that we need to talk about before moving on. They’re not about Trump usurping power or burying investigations of himself. They’re about his barbarism. They’re about his attacks on human rights. Valations of human rights are an all too common story under authoritarian regimes.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:15
    We like to think that these things could never happen in our country, but they can and they have. During Trump’s presidency, they began to happen again. And even Lindsey Graham, who just three years earlier, had spoken out against Trump’s barberism. Began to rationalize the president’s moral crimes. To understand how this happened, you have to understand how Graham and other Republicans understood themselves.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:45
    They didn’t think they were part of an authoritarian movement. They saw themselves as serving a man, not an idea. They thought authoritarianism was a doctrine, If you didn’t dispouse the doctrine, you certainly couldn’t be called an authoritarian. But that isn’t how authoritarianism emerges in a democracy. It doesn’t appear in the form of an idea.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:10
    It appears in the form of a man. So Graham and his colleagues didn’t think they were doing anything unusual. Trump was just the leader of their party, They were simply following him wherever he went. They thought that was how party politics worked. In some ways, this was less dangerous than an ideological commitment.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:33
    If Trump were to lose power, The Republican Party, as long as it wasn’t explicitly committed to authoritarianism, might be able to revert to accepting democracy and the rule of law. But in other ways, following a man was more dangerous than following an idea. The party would defend anything Trump did And he wasn’t just a bully. He was a predator, a mercenary, and a racist. On July fourteenth twenty nineteen, as Congress was awaiting Mueller’s testimony, Trump lashed out at a group of Democratic congresswomen, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:19
    Trump was angry because the congresswomen had compared some migrant detention facilities in the United States to concentration camps. On Twitter, Trump wrote that these women, quote, originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt, and inept anywhere in the world. Trump said the women had no business, quote, viciously telling the people of the United States, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came, he wrote? Now, just to be clear, not one of these congresswomen was a foreigner.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:05
    All three were American citizens. And two of them were native born Americans. But it wasn’t hard to figure out Trump’s angle. Two of the women were Muslim, Omar was from Somalia to leave was from a family of Palestinian origin, Ocasio Cortez, who had been born in the Bronx, was of Puerto Rican ancestry. Three days later, Trump denounced Omar at a rally, The crowd ate it up.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:34
    They chanted, send her back, send her back. In his speech, Trump basically repeated what he had said in his tweets.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:43
    So these congresswomen, their comments are helping to fuel the right of a dangerous, malignant, hard left. But that’s okay because we’re going to win this election like nobody’s ever seen before. And tonight, I have a suggestion for the hate filled extremists who are constantly trying to tear our country down. They never have anything good to say. That’s why I say, hey, if they don’t like it, let them leave.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:11
    Let them leave. Let them leave. They’re always telling us how to run it, how to do this, how to the you know what? If they don’t love it, tell them to leave it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:28
    Graham, like other elected Republicans, didn’t really want to defend such obvious ethnic demagoguery. But he did want to defend Trump. So Graham pretended that the president’s attacks on the three congresswomen were not in fact bigoted. He said that Trump had good reason to quote, go after the congresswomen because in Graham’s words, they’re running our country down. When Democrats complained about Trump’s remarks, Graham dismissed their objections.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:02
    If you’re a Republican, he scoffed, no matter what you say, you’ll be called a racist. On July eighteenth, Reporters pressed Graham about Trump’s statements and about that chant at his rally. Graham replied that the congresswomen had it coming to them. And in Trump’s defense, Graham tried to define racism in a way that excluded what Trump had said and what the crowd at his rally chanted. Graham suggested that explicit attacks on a person’s ancestry, including calls to leave the country, were not racist as long as the targeted person was a member of the political opposition.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:47
    Isn’t it racist though to say send her back?
  • Speaker 3
    0:33:50
    No. I don’t think it’s racist to say was it racist to say, love it or leave it? I don’t think a Somalia refugee embracing Trump would not have been asked to go back. If you erase this, you want everybody from Somalia to go back because they’re black or they’re Muslim. That’s not what this about to me.
  • Speaker 3
    0:34:08
    What this is about to me is that these four congressmen in their own way have been incredibly provocative
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:16
    It’s really important to pause here and think about what had just happened. We like to think that America can’t revert to the explicit legally sanctioned racism of its past. We like to think there’s something special about our country. And that the kind of ethnic persecution that often happens under authoritarian regimes can’t happen here. But what you just heard was a United States senator in twenty nineteen, inventing an excuse to cross that line.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:49
    And this wasn’t some dyed in the wool segregationist. Remember, in twenty fifteen, Graham had explicitly called out Trump as a race baiting bigot. Now just four years later, with a revised vocabulary and a clear conscious Gram was rationalizing race baiting. He was saying that it was completely understandable and not bigoted to target based on their ancestry, if they were guilty of, quote, not embracing Trump. That’s how fast America, Today’s America can go back to the evil of its past.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:40
    Soon after that episode, Gram found a way to accommodate one of Trump’s proposed war crimes using the United States military to loot other countries. In October twenty nineteen, Trump said he would pull American forces out of Syria. He framed this as a business decision. The US is always the sucker on NATO, on trade, on everything the president complained. He protested that America’s Kurdish allies in Syria, quote, were paid massive amounts of money and that housing ISIS fighters in American prisons was a tremendous cost.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:18
    On Twitter, Trump made it clear that his whole foreign policy was about self interest. He wrote in all caps, we will fight where it is to our benefit. Now this wasn’t how Graham thought about foreign policy. Graham vehemently opposed the pullout from Syria. But he understood that by benefit, Trump meant money.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:42
    And Graham also understood that Trump had been talking for years about taking oil from Middle Eastern countries. So Graham decided to persuade Trump that keeping troops in Syria could pay off in the form of oil revenue. On October fourteenth, Graham and retired Army General Jack Keene showed Trump a map of the Syrian region where American forces were deployed. Gram and Keane pointed out the oil fields. A week later, in a lunch with the president, Graham followed up stressing the importance of controlling the oil.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:21
    This was a cynical backstage lobbying campaign. And it worked. Trump agreed to keep troops in Syria. To Graham, keeping American forces in Syria wasn’t about the money. It was about standing with the Kurds and thwarting ISIS and Iran.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:39
    But to please Trump, Graham endorsed what he had condemned in twenty fifteen and twenty sixteen. Using the military to expropriate foreign oil. Here’s Graham on Fox News, sucking up to Trump and outlining the new business arrangement.
  • Speaker 3
    0:37:56
    President Trump is thinking outside the box I was so impressed with his thinking about the oil. Not only are we going to deny the oil fields falling into Iranian hands, I believe we’re on the verge of a joint venture between us and the Syrian democratic forces who helped destroy ISIS and keep them destroyed to modernize the oil fields and make sure they get the revenue, not the Iranian, not aside, and it can help pay for our small commitment in the future.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:24
    A week later at a White House briefing, a reporter asked Graham quote, by what warrant or legal right in international law. Does the United States take the oil of the sovereign nation of Syria? Graham replied that the Syrian government didn’t control the oil fields, the American backed rebels did. And in another interview on Fox, Graham boasted that the joint oil drilling venture between the rebels and the United States could be lucrative for both partners.
  • Speaker 3
    0:38:54
    Bad, guys. There were forty five million dollars a month being pumped currently. I think with some American help, we can double or triple the oil revenues. Share it with the Syrian Democratic Forces who fought so bravely the Kurds to destroy ISIS. It will be good for them and their families and their communities.
  • Speaker 3
    0:39:11
    It can help pay for our footprint.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:14
    Graham was getting exactly what he had bargained for. In exchange for defending and facilitating Trump’s corruption, he was helping to shape America’s role in the world. But morally, that deal was getting more and more expensive. And it seemed as though there was no price Graham wouldn’t pay Coming up next time on the corruption of Lindsey Graham, the senator declares war on Trump’s domestic enemies.
  • Speaker 3
    0:39:45
    They want to turn us into a socialist nation. They want to destroy the the family unit as we know it. And I tell you why, to the listers out there, you may not believe you’re in a war, but you are politically, and you need to take sides and you need to help this president.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:02
    The corruption of Lindsey Graham was reported and written by me Will Saletan. Katie Cooper is the producer with audio engineering, editing, and sound by Jason Brown. Thank you to my editors, Jonathan Last Last and Adam Kiper, and to Charlie Sykes.
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:30
    Former Navy
  • Speaker 12
    0:40:36
    seal Sean Ryan shares real stories from real people, from all walks of life on the Sean Ryan Show.
  • Speaker 11
    0:40:43
    Sean Webb. Everyone Webb, everyone can be influenced. A computer system in artificial intelligence is on the cusp of figuring out how to do that. You’re talking about the ability of being able to simulate the third human being and sign you for a special task force, and all of a sudden you’re working for an artificial intelligence that’s arming you, equipping you, and it has a human army to defend its artificial intelligence goals. That’s where we’re at.
  • Speaker 12
    0:41:02
    Sean Ryan Show on YouTube or wherever you listen.
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