Lindsey Graham has become Mr. Anti-Impeachment
in the Senate. He lives to defend Trump.
In the space of a few weeks, Mr. Graham, who has long prided himself on being an institutionalist, has gone from expressing an open mind about impeachment to becoming a leader of the president’s counterattack. He has angrily denounced the House inquiry — “Salem witches got a better deal than this!” he tweeted on Wednesday — while generally acquiescing to calls from an outraged party base to mount a more vigorous defense of the president.
Not long ago, the senator was a very different person -- and I don't think that either his impending re-election or the brayings of the base can fully explain this transformation.
Thanks to a friend's generosity, I'm reading the Simpson/Fritsch book Crime in Progress
, which offers the untold story of the Steele Dossier -- you know, that series of intelligence reports which the Republicans keep saying has been "discredited" without telling you who discredited it or just which parts are wrong. Here's a bit from the opening chapter:
Senator McCain, still many months from a dire brain cancer diagnosis, wanted to put a copy of Steele’s memos in front of FBI Director James Comey -- a decision his friend and fellow Republican senator Lindsey Graham encouraged. McCain wanted to know if the FBI was doing anything about credible information from a trusted ex–intelligence official in the U.K. that a hostile foreign power might have influence over the U.S. president-elect.
Let that sink in. There was a time when Lindsey Graham
wanted to make sure that Jim Comey looked into the Steele report. If there was a "Get Trump" conspiracy, Graham was part of it.
Later in Crime in Progress
“The allegations were disturbing, but I had no idea which if any were true,” McCain later wrote. “I could not independently verify any of it, and so I did what any American who cares about our nation’s security should have done. I put the dossier in my office safe, called the office of the director of the FBI, Jim Comey, and asked for a meeting.” McCain’s friend and colleague Lindsey Graham later admitted that he had encouraged McCain to turn the dossier over to the FBI. Months later Graham would feign outrage over the dossier during congressional hearings.
In the first weeks of December, desperate Trump opponents launched a last-ditch effort to block Trump from the presidency by persuading the members of the Electoral College to vote against ratifying the election. Kramer and other die-hard opponents of Trump hoped the establishment would somehow awaken to the threat Trump represented, rise up, and stop him from taking office. McCain, Kramer hoped, would use his status—war hero, former GOP presidential nominee, Russia hawk—to lead a Republican Party mutiny and recruit fellow senators Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio to the effort. Kramer shared his ambition with Steele, who hoped it might be possible but had no way of gauging whether it was realistic or a pipe dream.
It soon came out that the White House had engineered the whole show, sharing with Nunes classified documents about incidental surveillance of Trump campaign officials collected during the campaign so he could then act as if they had come from somewhere else. Even Senator Lindsey Graham, soon to be a sturdy Trump ally, scoffed at Nunes’s ham-handed effort to change the subject, calling it an “Inspector Clouseau investigation.” The House Ethics Committee opened an inquiry into Nunes’s actions. While under fire days later, Nunes recused himself from directing the committee’s Russia inquiry, a pledge he would water down with each passing month.
How soon we forget! The Nunes recusal, or semi-recusal, owed much to Lindsey Graham.
And then...something changed. An invisible hand flipped a switch. Cute little Linda Blair suddenly soiled her mother's rug.
Two days later, a federal judge rejected Fusion’s effort to block the House Intelligence Committee from obtaining more of its bank records. “Federal Judge Obliterates Fusion GPS’ Attempt to Hide Info from Investigators,” screamed one right-wing website. The next day, Grassley and his new wingman, Lindsey Graham, launched a counteroffensive against Fusion and Orbis, announcing they’d sent a letter to the Justice Department demanding a criminal investigation of Christopher Steele for supposedly lying to the FBI. The FBI was fully capable of referring for criminal prosecution any individual it believed had knowingly lied to or misled them. That had not happened. The Graham-Grassley referral was a transparent political stunt. On Friday, TD Bank dispatched a copy of Fusion’s account records to the House.
It made for a lousy, wintry weekend. Of all the accusations leveled against Orbis and Fusion in the year since the dossier became public, the accusation by Grassley and Graham against Steele was perhaps the most outrageous. Steele phoned Simpson and Fritsch, distraught by these developments.
“I have served my country loyally for twenty years and only did what I thought was right,” he told Simpson. “This is how I am thanked? These people have no shame.”
What the hell happened to Lindsey Graham? Many would say that the "kompromat" theory is simplistic -- but there are times when "simplistic" is just a way of saying simple
. And you know what Occam had to say about the simplest theory.