Though Lindsey Graham has a history of advocating for Congress’ right to conduct oversight of the president, his fidelity to this particularly prickly section of the Constitution has its limits. As the House of Representatives has directed its investigative levers toward President Trump, few Republicans have cried foul as loudly as the senator from South Carolina, who has defended the president’s July 25th call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky while bashing Democrats for having the gall to investigate it. Last month, he described their efforts to Fox News as an attempt to “destroy the nation for no good reason.”
But Graham’s full-throated defenses of Trump and attacks on Democrats have steadily crumbled as evidence of the president’s wrongdoing continues to emerge and Democrats continue to undercut Republican complaints about how they are conducting the impeachment inquiry.
And so, out of arguments and buried under a barrage of evidence, he’s decided to just dismiss it entirely.
On Tuesday, when Gordon Sondland amended his testimony to include an admission that a quid pro quo was in place and that he explained to a Ukrainian official that the U.S. would not deliver military aid unless Zelensky publicly announced he was launching an investigation into the Bidens, Graham essentially put his fingers in his ears, telling reporters that he didn’t even plan on reading the transcript. “I’ve written the whole process off,” he said. “I think this is a bunch of B.S.”
Reporter: “Do you plan on reading these transcripts that were released?”⁰
— Kathryn Watson (@kathrynw5) November 5, 2019
It’s understandable why Graham is having a hard time reckoning with what was released on Tuesday.
In September, he said pretty definitively that Americans would never see any indication that Trump was extorting Ukraine. The impeachment inquiry has since turned up plenty of evidence indicating this to be the case, perhaps none more damning than the admission from Sondland, a Trump appointee who donated heavily to the president’s inaugural committee.
Sen. Lindsey Graham: "If you're looking for a circumstance where the President of the United States was threatening the Ukraine with cutting off aid unless they investigated his political opponent, you'd be very disappointed. That does not exist." pic.twitter.com/io19f19725
— The Hill (@thehill) September 26, 2019
In addition to Sondland’s new testimony and the transcript of the testimony he delivered last month, House Democrats on Tuesday released the complete testimony of Kurt Volker, the former U.S. ambassador to NATO who also was deposed last month as part of the impeachment inquiry. At the time of his deposition, Graham expressed concern that his testimony would never see the light of day.
If House D’s refuse to release full transcript of Volker testimony as requested by Congressman Jordan, it will be an abuse of power.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 9, 2019
Now that it has, Graham suddenly is no longer interested. “No,” he said flatly when asked if he planned to read the transcript he demanded to see less than a month ago.
Though Graham’s boundless capacity to make an ass of himself may be amusing, it’s also a terrifying preview of what to expect should the impeachment effort make its way to the Senate. As the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Graham will effectively lead the Republican defense of the president. If his comments Tuesday were any indication, that defense isn’t likely to involve any real acknowledgement of the facts of the case, which at this point would be tantamount to acknowledging the the president’s guilt. Instead, Graham and his fellow Senate Republicans are more likely to simply throw up their hands, say “B.S.,” and blindly vote to acquit their leader of any wrongdoing.
Update: Graham, after reading the thing he said he wasn’t going to read, has now decided that Trump’s team’s Ukraine policy was so “incoherent” that “they seem to be incapable of forming a quid pro quo.”
"It was incoherent," Sen @LindseyGrahamSC
says of Trump's Ukraine policy.
"They seem to be *incapable* of forming a quid pro quo." pic.twitter.com/rdZxyIazNj
— Steven Portnoy (@stevenportnoy) November 6, 2019