Sen. Lindsey Graham flip-flops on Trump quid pro quo

A day after saying he wouldn’t bother reading transcripts released by House Democrats in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., now says he did read the testimony, and his conclusion is that the administration’s Ukraine policy was too “incoherent” for it to have orchestrated the quid pro quo that is at the heart of the probe.

Testimony released Tuesday included depositions from Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine. A revised statement from Sondland, correcting his earlier testimony, acknowledged 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.

Graham, who two weeks ago said he would consider new evidence in the impeachment probe, initially said he had no plans to read their testimony.

“I’ve written the whole process off,” he told reporters Tuesday. “I think this is a bunch of BS.”

On Wednesday, Graham said he had, in fact, read the transcripts.

“I’ve made up my own mind,” he said. “Volker, the special envoy, said there was no quid pro quo. Sunderland [sic] has changed his testimony to say he presumes there was. What I can tell you about the Trump policy toward the Ukraine, it was incoherent. It depends on who you talk to. They seem to be incapable of forming a quid pro quo.”

Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, added: “I find the whole process to be a sham, and I’m not going to legitimize it.”

In transcripts made public so far this week, Sondland, Volker, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and former high-ranking State Department official Michael McKinley all backed up concerns raised by an anonymous intelligence community whistleblower who said Trump was holding up foreign aid to Ukraine in exchange for help in pursuing a conspiracy theory advanced by the president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani about the 2016 election, and in investigating former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential rival in 2020.  

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US President Donald Trump (R) jokes with US Senator Chuck Grassley (L), R-Iowa,that he likes Sen. Lindsey Graham(L) R-SC during a meeting with Republican members of the Senate about immigration at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 4, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 04: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump (3rd L) speaks as (L-R) Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) listen during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House January 4, 2018 in Washington, DC. President Trump met with Republican members of the Senate to discuss immigration. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) scratches his brow as he stands behind President Donald Trump during an event with Republican lawmakers to mark passage of sweeping tax overhaul legislation at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 20, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham joins U.S. President Donald Trump for a meeting with some of his fellow Senate Republicans at the White House in Washington, U.S. December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham joins U.S. President Donald Trump for a meeting with some of his fellow Senate Republicans at the White House in Washington, U.S. December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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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 Ukrainian President Volodymyr 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.

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