the national interest

Lindsey Graham Rests Entire Trump Defense on Word He Doesn’t Understand

Sen. Lindsey Graham Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The rules of the Sunday political talk-show format hold that members of both parties send out representatives to recite their talking points on the controversy of the week. To qualify as “talking points,” you do not need either correct facts or a coherent argument in which to order them. You just need words, ideally ones that at least sound like they’re related to the subject, to fulfill the basic function of allowing you to fill your allotted time with something other than silence.

Lindsey Graham’s appearance on Face the Nation to defend President Trump’s conduct in the Ukraine scandal managed to satisfy the criteria of the genre, though perhaps just barely.

Graham’s major talking point was the the accusations against Trump amount to “hearsay.” He repeated the phrase 11 times, as though it were an incantation that, by magic, would cause the pile of evidence against Trump to disappear. For instance, he declared: “It’s all hearsay. You can’t get a parking ticket conviction based on hearsay. The whistle-blower didn’t hear the phone call.”

But of course the evidence against Trump is not hearsay. All the basic facts of the plot have been confessed openly by the principles. The main charge is that Trump sent his personal lawyer to convince another country to investigate his political rival. Both the lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and Trump have openly boasted about this for months. Trump has also admitted publicly that he ordered a halt to aid for Ukraine to increase leverage for his demand, and that he did so in order to force Ukraine to investigate “corruption,” a word he helpfully translated as code for “Biden.”

In addition to all that evidence, there is plenty of additional supporting evidence, some of which was reported by a CIA agent whistle-blower. The agent followed protocol by reporting their findings to the Intelligence Community Inspector General, who found them to be serious and credible. The journalist interviewing Graham, Margaret Brennan, noted that many allegations in the whistle-blower report have been independently verified in the time since — including the account of one of the phone calls between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

At this point in the interview, as Brennan began listing ways in which the whistle-blower report has been corroborated, Graham tried to interrupt her repeatedly, then announced, “You’ve got an opinion, I’ve got an opinion.”

There’s no question of opinion! If the facts have been confirmed, they’re definitely not hearsay. Graham just continued using the word “hearsay,” even after Brennan had indisputably shown that the whistle-blower’s account contained confirmed facts. If somebody hears about a crime, and then authorities check it out and discover the crime occurred, the perp doesn’t get to walk because there was originally “hearsay.” That is not how the law works.

Graham Rests Trump Defense on Word He Doesn’t Understand