U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, once one of the few Republicans willing to criticize Donald Trump, now is predicting the president “is going to blow you away with his willingness to disclose and be transparent” about his phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Speaking to conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt Monday, the senator from South Carolina said he urges Trump “to continue to be as transparent as possible and tell us as much as he can without compromising executive privilege, so that we can understand what happened” on the call, in which Trump, according to a whistleblower, encouraged Ukrainian authorities to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who once worked for a natural gas company in Ukraine. Reports also suggest Trump threatened to cut U.S. aid to Ukraine if they didn't investigate Biden.
Trump reportedly alleged that Biden threatened to withhold U.S. loans to Ukraine in order to force the firing of a prosecutor who was investigating the company. The Washington Post’s fact checker has found the allegation against Biden to be without merit.
Trump has continued to defend his actions during the July 25 call with Zelensky, saying it was a “nice” conversation, but he appeared to confirm the whistleblower’s report in speaking to journalists Sunday, according to the Post. “The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, was largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place, was largely the fact that we don’t want our people, like Vice President Biden and his son, creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine,” he said.
The report has created new fears that Trump is trying to influence a foreign power to interfere in a U.S. election, as Biden is one of the top contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
Despite appearances that Graham is showing some independence by subtly encouraging Trump to be more hawkish on foreign policy, the senator did defend the president in his conversation with Hewitt.
“When it comes to the phone call, this is one of the most privileged matters any president would have, I would think, is a conversation with a foreign leader,” Graham said. “But the times in which we live, I believe, that President Trump is going to blow you away with his willingness to disclose and be transparent about this phone call, because I think he did nothing wrong and he has nothing to hide. And the day that happens is the day that the inquiry about the interview with what was said by Joe Biden begins in earnest. So get ready for some disclosures from the president that I think will exceed every expectation. I can’t promise you this will happen, but I think the president will clear the air when it comes to the whistleblower allegation.”
Graham also said it’s a good idea to be “suspicious” of attacks on Trump and that a newly reported sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh shows certain people “hate Trump … beyond reason.”