Oct 10, 2019

Report: Sen. Lindsey Graham called U.S. ally Kurds a "threat" in August phone call

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) — one of the senators to draft sanctions against Turkey for its attack on Kurdish forces in northern Syria — reportedly described the "YPG Kurds" as a "threat" in an August phone call with a man he believed to be Turkey's defense minister, Politico reports.

The big picture: The YPG, with U.S. support, helped drive the Islamic State from northern Syria and Iraq. But Turkey has long wanted to attack the YPG, which it declared a terrorist organization. President Trump's decision late Sunday to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and leave the YPG exposed to attack from Turkey has garnered bipartisan backlash and angered his most ardent Republican allies in Congress.

Driving the news: Graham said in the August phone call that he was "sympathetic" to Turkey's "Kurdish problem," per Politico, and that he "told President Trump that Obama made a huge mistake in relying on the YPG Kurds."

  • Of note: Graham was actually speaking with Russian pranksters Alexey Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov, according to Politico, and not Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.

Catch up quick: Graham also referenced the president's personal interest in a “Turkish bank case” that appears to refer to the 2017 case against gold trader Reza Zarrab.

  • Trump pressed former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to "help persuade the Justice Department to drop" Zarrab's case in 2017, Bloomberg reports — which Tillerson refused to do and described as "illegal."
  • The dismissal of the case was a high priority for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, according to Bloomberg.

Go deeper: Senators draft bipartisan sanctions bill over Turkey's assault on Kurds

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Report: Trump pressed Rex Tillerson on Rudy Giuliani client

Rex Tillerson looks at Trump after a 9/11 memorial service in 2017. Photo: Brendan Smiaowski/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump pressed former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to "help persuade the Justice Department to drop a criminal case against an Iranian-Turkish gold trader" in 2017, which Tillerson reportedly refused and described as illegal, Bloomberg reports.

The big picture: Trump is currently facing an impeachment inquiry that grew from a whistleblower report on his interactions with another foreign leader, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Go deeperArrowOct 10, 2019

Lindsey Graham threatens Turkey with "most crippling sanctions" since Iran

Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday condemned Turkey for its "outrageous assault" on U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria, which followed President Trump's decision to withdraw troops from the area.

Turkey's day of reckoning is coming for their outrageous assault on Kurdish Syrians. I’m leading the effort in Congress to work with the President on the most crippling sanctions since the Iran sanctions. Turkeys misadventure in Syria, if left unchecked, will destabilize the Middle East as much as Iran -- to the detriment of the United States and our allies.
Go deeperArrowOct 13, 2019

Trump attacks Lindsey Graham for criticism of Syria policy

President Trump responded to harsh criticism from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) over the events unfolding in northern Syria, saying that Graham should focus on his work chairing the Senate Judiciary Committee, and accusing Graham of obsessing over war in the Middle East.

Go deeperArrowOct 16, 2019