Stories

Graham defends Trump's Ukraine call as "ethical" and calls for Biden probe

Speaking to CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) attacked the Trump-Ukraine whistleblower complaint as a "political setup" and suggested appointing a special investigator to look into allegations that Joe Biden forced Ukraine to fire a prosecutor investigating his son.

The exchange:

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think it was ethical for the president to bring up Joe Biden?
GRAHAM: Yes, absolutely. I think somebody ought to look at whether or not Joe Biden had the prosecutor fired and in a proper way. I love Joe Biden, I don't want to look at it. I want an inspector general, somebody like Mueller. Did Biden know that his son was receiving $50,000 a month from a gas company being investigated by the prosecutor --
BRENNAN: Isn't that just his payment for being on the board?
GRAHAM: The board, the guy's on the board being investigated for corruption and the guy doing the investigation is asked to be fired by Biden — I don't know what happened. It smells to high heaven. I never said the Mueller investigation was a witch hunt. I introduced legislation to protect Mueller. This seems to me like a political setup. This is all hearsay. You can't get a parking ticket conviction based on hearsay. The whistleblower didn't hear the phone call. Who told the whistleblower about the phone call and everything else?

The big picture: President Trump and his allies have been doubling down on claims about Biden's alleged corruption, which sparked a formal impeachment inquiry after it was revealed that Trump asked the president of Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son.

Reality check: As the Washington Post and others have fact-checked, Biden was one of many Western officials calling for Ukraine to fire top prosecutor Viktor Shokin — not because Shokin was investigating the company where Hunter Biden worked, but because he had failed to root out corruption.

  • In fact, Shokin was not investigating Burisma, the energy company whose board Hunter Biden sat on, at the time of his firing.
  • The Ukrainian prosecutor who first floated the allegations about the Bidens, Yuri Lutsenko, has since said there is no evidence that the Bidens broke any Ukrainian laws.

Between the lines: Graham and Biden have a close relationship, having served in the Senate together for decades. Graham was a vocal opponent of Trump while running against him in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, but he has since become one of Trump's most loyal allies and defenders in the Senate.

Go deeper: Trump’s playbook for planting suspicion