Last week, the House unanimously passed a non-binding resolution calling for the public release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. When the measure reached the Senate floor, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) blocked it — and thereby completed his curious journey from outspoken Trump critic to unabashed sycophant.
Not So Long Ago…
Back on MAY 3, 2016, Graham tweeted:
And after Trump won the election, Graham urged a thorough search for the truth about Russia’s role. Consider these entries from the Trump-Russia Timeline:
JAN. 8, 2017: Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Graham says, “You asked me what should we do. We should get to bottom of all things Russia when it came to the 2016 — “
Chuck Todd: “Period.”
Graham: “— election. Period.”
Todd: “Wherever it leads.”
Graham: “Yeah, wherever it leads in whatever form.”
He adds, “Here’s what I think we should do as a nation. We should all, Republicans, Democrats, condemn Russia for what they did. To my Republican friends who are gleeful, you’re making a huge mistake.”
FEB. 8, 2017: Graham co-authors bipartisan legislation that would prevent Trump from lifting Russian sanctions unilaterally.
FEB. 15, 2017: Graham calls for a broader bipartisan probe if any “preliminary investigation” shows that Trump’s campaign communicated with Russians in the year leading up to the 2016 election:”If there’s contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence officials outside the norm, that’s not only big league bad, that’s a game changer.”
JULY 9, 2017: On NBC’s Meet the Press, Graham calls Trump’s recent meeting with Vladimir Putin “disastrous,” saying, “[W]hen it comes to Russia, he’s got a blind spot. And to forgive and forget when it comes to Putin regarding cyber-attacks is to empower Putin and that’s exactly what he’s doing.”
AUG. 3, 2017: Graham co-authors bipartisan legislation to protect Mueller.
OCT. 22, 2017: Graham reiterates that Trump has a puzzling “blind spot” on Russia.
But Something Happened…
Then Graham reverses course and embraces Trump’s Russia investigation strategy: divert, distract, and obfuscate.
DEC. 8, 2017: In a series of tweets, Graham calls for a new special counsel to investigate “Clinton email scandal, Uranium One, role of Fusion GPS, and FBI and DOJ bias during 2016 campaign. I will be challenging Rs and Ds on Senate Judiciary Committee to support a Special Counsel to investigate ALL THINGS 2016 — not just Trump and Russia.”
MAR. 15, 2018: Graham joins three other GOP senators in asking the Department of Justice to appoint a second special counsel to investigate the FBI’s use of the “Steele dossier” in obtaining a FISA warrant against Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
SEPT. 13, 2018: Graham says he will renew his call for a second special counsel to investigate allegations of anti-Trump bias at the Department of Justice and the FBI.
NOV. 18, 2018: On NBC’s Meet the Press, Graham says, “I am suggesting that the people in the Department of Justice and FBI, in the early stages of the Russia investigation, the dossier was used to get a FISA warrant that I think was very inappropriate. There seems to be some political bias about how the Clinton email investigation was handled. We need to get to the bottom of all that.”
DEC. 10, 2018: On Sean Hannity’s program, Graham says, “We should have had a special counsel appointed a long time ago to look at all things Clinton.”
MAR. 14, 2019: Blocking Senate consideration of the resolution to make Mueller’s report public, Graham wants lawmakers to request that Attorney General William Barr appoint a second special counsel “to investigate Department of Justice misconduct” during federal investigations of Trump’s alleged Russia ties and Hillary Clinton’s emails.
And Now Trump Has Destroyed Graham
For the legal profession, Graham’s about-face is particularly distressing. He has a law degree (JD, Univ. of South Carolina, ’81). He understands the importance of the rule of law and the critical responsibility of every attorney to defend it. And he knows that when Trump undermines the rule of law, he threatens democracy itself.
If the Trump-Russia scandal produces a dark side counterpoint to Profiles in Courage, historians will write an interesting chapter on Lindsey Graham. When it comes to Trump-Russia, the obvious explanations for his stunning reversal — greed, ambition, and hypocrisy — just don’t seem sufficient.
Here’s a complete list of the latest updates to the Trump-Russia Timeline:
DEC. 9, 2016: McCain Delivers ‘Steele Dossier’ to FBI Director Comey (revision of previous entry)
JAN. 8, 2017: Graham and McCain Call for Thorough Trump-Russia Investigation
FEB. 8, 2017: Senators Propose Bill Banning Trump From Lifting Russia Sanctions (date revision of previous entry)
FEB. 15, 2017: Graham: Any Contacts Between Russian Intelligence and Trump Campaign Is a ‘Game Changer’
JULY 9, 2017: Graham Says Trump Has a ‘Blind Spot’ on Russia
DEC. 8, 2017: Graham Calls For Broader Investigations of Clinton, DOJ, FBI During 2016 Campaign
MAR. 15, 2018: GOP Senators Request Second Special Counsel to Investigate FBI’s Use of ‘Steele Dossier’
AUG. 22, 2018: Graham: Mueller Will Be Fair, Not a ‘Witch Hunt’
SEPT. 13, 2018: Graham Renews Call For Second Special Counsel
NOV. 18, 2018: Graham Claims DOJ/FBI Bias Against Trump
DEC. 10, 2018: Graham Says Second Special Counsel Should Have Been Appointed to Investigate ‘All Things Clinton’
MAR. 12 2019: Trump Tweets ‘Presidential Harassers’, ‘Witch Hunt’, ‘Witch Hunt Hoax’; Retweets Republicans’ Attacks on Simpson, Schiff, Cohen, Steeler Dossier
MAR. 12, 2019: Lisa Page Transcript Released
MAR. 13, 2019: Trump Attacks Lisa Page, FBI, Comey, NY Attorney General Letitia James
MAR. 13, 2019: DC Judge Brings Manafort’s Total Prison Term to 7.5 Years, Rejects ‘No Collusion’ Mantra; Manafort’s Lawyer Lies About Judge’s Remarks
MAR. 13, 2019: NY District Attorney Announces State Charges Against Manafort
MAR. 13, 2019: Flynn Cooperation Essentially Complete
MAR. 14, 2019: Trump Attacks House Democrats Investigating Him
MAR. 14, 2019: Graham Blocks Resolution on Mueller Report
MAR. 14, 2019: Stone Trial Date Set for Nov. 5
MAR. 15, 2019: Trump Attacks FBI, DOJ, Strzok, McCabe, Mueller’s Appointment
MAR. 15, 2019: Gates Sentencing Delayed
MAR. 15, 2019: Deripaska Sues Over US Sanctions
MAR. 16, 2019: Trump Tweets About Releasing Mueller Report, Fox News Clips Attacking FBI, Steele Dossier; Retweets Prior Attacks
MAR. 17, 2019: MAR. 17, 2019: Trump Lies About ‘Steele Dossier’; Retweets Criticism of McCain, Article Attacking Mueller Prosecutor
Steven J. Harper is the creator and curator of the Trump-Russia Timeline appearing at Dan Rather’s News & Guts and at Just Security. He is an attorney, adjunct professor at Northwestern University Law School, and author of four books, including Crossing Hoffa — A Teamster’s Story (Chicago Tribune “Best Book of the Year”) and The Lawyer Bubble — A Profession in Crisis. He blogs at The Belly of the Beast. Follow him on Twitter (@StevenJHarper1).