Senator Lindsey Graham is facing some serious heat as details emerge about a prank call he received last August in which a pair of notorious Russian pranksters pretended to be Turkey’s Minister of Defense. During the call, Graham referred to the Kurdish forces he has recently been adamantly supporting as a “threat” and a “problem.”
The pranksters provided the full audio of the call to Politico.
NEW: Sen. Lindsey Graham thought he was talking to the Turkish defense minister. It was actually Russian pranksters.— Sudeep Reddy (@Reddy) October 10, 2019
Graham called the Kurds a “threat” to Turkey and mentioned Trump's personal interest in a “Turkish bank case.” https://t.co/b5TZdQCeGq via @NatashaBertrand
“I told President Trump that Obama made a huge mistake in relying on the YPG Kurds,” Graham said. “Everything I worried about has come true, and now we have to make sure Turkey is protected from this threat in Syria. I’m sympathetic to the YPG problem, and so is the president, quite frankly.”
The problem is going to be Graham’s after he’s spent the past few days attacking Donald Trump for his decision to withdraw the few U.S. troops from northern Syria and hand control of the region to Turkey, which considers the Kurds—who have been helping America fight ISIS—to be terrorists.
Turkish forces have already launched attacks against the Kurds, only hours after Trump promised consequences if they did so.
Mr. President, your decision regarding Syria is having grave consequences to our national security and that of our allies and partners.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 10, 2019
Multiple Republicans, including Graham, have called the withdrawal a betrayal of our Kurdish allies.
A spokesperson for Graham tried to play the call off as a one-time thing that “slipped through the cracks.” However, pranksters Alexey Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov reportedly got Graham on the phone a second time, during which the Senator told the fake defense ministers that he had discussed the previous call with Trump.
“The pranksters managed to get Graham on the phone again a few days after the first call. In the second call, Graham says he met with Trump to discuss what the [fake] ‘defense minister’ had told him.”https://t.co/DdxJRoFRMa
— Rachel Maddow MSNBC (@maddow) October 10, 2019
To make matters worse, Graham made some “modestly compromising” remarks about what is being called a “Turkish bank case” involving an Iranian-Turkish gold trader, who also happens to be a client of none other than Rudy Giuliani. Just yesterday, Bloomberg reported that in 2017, Trump asked then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to “persuade” the Justice Department to drop the case.
“And this case involving the Turkish bank, he’s very sensitive to that,” Graham said on the second call. “The president wants to be helpful, within the limits of his power.”
In 2018, a Turkish banker was convicted for helping the gold trader and others “launder billions of dollars worth of Iranian oil proceeds, ultimately creating a slush fund for Iran to use however it wished—the very harm that U.S. sanctions were put in place to avoid,” according to prosecutors.
The full implications of Graham’s gushing to Russian pranksters on a hoax phone call are still being subject to speculation, but all in all, not a good day for Senator Lindsey Graham. After all this, he might want to revisit what he did in this video: