Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a Graham spokesman has admitted to Politico, fell victim to Russian pranksters whom the Republican Senator from South Carolina believed were actually Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.
On that August phone call, Graham called the Kurds a “threat” to Turkey, which is notable when you consider that Graham has been criticizing the Trump Administration this week for “shamelessly abandon[ing]” the Kurds — U.S. allies against ISIS — ahead of a Turkish offensive in Northern Syria.
But Graham also expressed sympathy for Turkey’s “Kurdish problem” and described the Kurds as a “threat.” Those private comments appear to contradict his public statements this week, in which he criticized Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria because it’s “wrong to abandon the Kurds, who have been strong allies against” the Islamic State.
Just hours ago, Graham said on his Twitter account: “Very sad to see great ally – the Kurds – being assaulted by Turkish-Erdogan military using American-designed equipment. Expect Congress to act soon against Turkey’s invasion & aggressively push back. Hope Trump Administration will join this effort.”
If the names Alexey Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov (aka Lexus and Vovan) sound familiar that might be because they once pranked Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), claiming there were pictures of “naked Trump.”
“I told President Trump that Obama made a huge mistake in relying on the YPG Kurds,” Graham said on the call. “Everything I worried about has come true, and now we have to make sure Turkey is protected from this threat in Syria. I’m sympathetic to the YPG problem, and so is the president, quite frankly.”
Reza Zarrab, 34, an Iranian-Turkish gold trader and client of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, also came up in the phone call; Graham mentioned that President Donald Trump was interested in the case and “want[ed] to be helpful, within the limits of his power.” It was reported just yesterday that Trump pressured former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to help persuade the Department of Justice to drop the case against Zarrab.
Graham spokesman Kevin Bishop confirmed in the story that “this one slipped through the cracks” and that the pranksters “got” the Senator.
[Image via Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images]