Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who two weeks ago said additional evidence of a quid pro quo in President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine would be “very disturbing,” told reporters Tuesday that he’s not interested in seeing it.
His comments to reporters came after House Democrats released transcripts of testimony by witnesses in the impeachment inquiry that supported the central allegation that the White House tied military and political support to a “favor” Trump sought from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“I’ve written the whole process off,” said Graham of South Carolina, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I think this is a bunch of BS.”
Testimony released Tuesday included a revised statement by Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, acknowledging that he “spoke individually” with a top Ukrainian official and conveyed what Trump was demanding from Kiev in exchange for military and other aid already approved by Congress.
In transcripts made public so far this week, Sondland; Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine; former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch; and former high-ranking State Department official Michael McKinley all tended to confirm that Trump was seeking Zelensky’s help in pursuing a conspiracy theory advanced by Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani about the 2016 election, and in investigating former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential rival in 2020.
In an interview with Axios in late October, Graham said he was open to hearing evidence beyond the already reported July 25 phone call in which Trump asked Zelensky for “a favor.”
“Sure, I mean ... if you could show me that, you know, Trump actually was engaging in a quid pro quo, outside the phone call, that would be very disturbing,” Graham said.
At the time, Graham’s openness to impeachment was a shift from his comments the month before.
“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,” he told reporters in late September. “That does not exist.”
On Oct. 17, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters during a press briefing that Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine until it looked into the debunked conspiracy theory that Ukrainian nationals were in possession of a computer server belonging to the Democratic National Committee.
“Did he also mention to me in the past the corruption related to the DNC server?” Mulvaney responded when asked about the president’s public call to investigate Biden and his son Hunter. “Absolutely. No question about that. But that’s it. That’s why we held up the money.”
When a reporter pointed out that withholding aid to Ukraine until an investigation into the DNC server was launched was the very definition of a quid pro quo, Mulvaney responded, “We do that all the time with foreign policy.”
Mulvaney later walked back those comments, and claimed the “media has decided to misconstrue my comments to advance a biased and political witch hunt against President Trump.”
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