What Happened to Lindsey Graham?
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The guy in charge of making the case against him was a relatively green congressman from South Carolina named Lindsey Graham. You can still look up grams closing arguments against Clinton on C. Span along with a lot of other videotape that hasn't aged particularly well especially now that grams moved up to the Senate twenty years ago. He was urging his colleagues to remain impartial. When it came to impeachment members of the Senate have said I understand everything? There is about this case and I won't vote impeach the president. Please allow the facts to do. The talking don't decide the case before the cases in now all as grim gets ready to sit in judgment against president trump. He sounds pretty different. I am clearly made up my mind. I'm not trying to hide the fact that have disdained for the accusations in the process I am ready to vote on the underlying articles. I don't really need to hear a lot of witnesses. But the President says This discrepancy would be almost funny. If it didn't make your head spin. Yeah I mean mean. He found himself at the center of everything for a number of reasons. But I mean we all know that he'll act as a sort of defacto defense attorney for trump Mark Bonelli reports rolling stone and he found himself wondering about Senator Graham because they've just been so many different versions of him even in the last last few weeks. This impeachment inquiry has forced Lindsey Graham into a very public argument with himself like when he announced he was launching an investigation into Joe Biden Haydn and his son hunter a separate investigation into your friend. Joe Biden this was after a month or two of him saying he absolutely wouldn't be doing that that he didn't see any reason to do that. Joe Biden is a is a friend. He's one of the most decent people I've ever met my life. But here's the deal. This whole process also around. The Ukraine is reeks with politics. They've done everything. But take a wrecking ball to donald trump. And his family. I think within in twenty four hours of video surfaced. The bottom line is if you can admire Joe Biden as a person. That's probably you got a problem. I I put in a very flowery southern way one of the best people God has ever created or something like that. He's the nicest person I think Berman. Politics is that right. He is as good a man as God ever created it sort of felt like like a taped confession to future crime here. You have evidence of him sort of praising this guy who's genuinely a friend you know and Graham has this reputation in the Senate of of reaching across the aisle for years working king with working with Democrats and I think Biden is wasn't as a friend and yet you know fast forward to late twenty nineteen and he's willing to accused this friend of corruption. When in fact he knows the person he's carrying water for the president is the corrupt one? Gram must know that. So you think he does. He's a smart guy I think yeah I think he does today on the a show. There's no way to know. Exactly what Lindsey Graham is thinking but mark did his best to find out. He traveled grams home. State talked to people who worked with the senator are for years all in an effort to figure out what's driving one of the most influential lawmakers in Washington. I'm Mary Harris. You're listening to what next stick with us. Imagine if your home was perfectly tuned to your individual needs colour connect smart home products. Let you enjoy customized experiences all with the sound of your voice with a single app you can connect and personalize a range of settings for your shower toilet kitchen faucet and water filter step into a shower heated to your ideal temperature with just the right combination of sprays and steam and tuned to the playlist. 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He was actually more of the. Interestingly he was more of a kind of doctrinaire conservative and Graham has this reputation in the Senate of of reaching across the aisle. Graham was part of the the so called gang of eight working on immigration reform. I think you talked to someone who said Oh yeah any of these gangs of whoever like Lindsay's in the middle of them. Yeah he he he gets in the mix and and and those sorts of things and and and one of his former staffers said he he lived for that. That was sort of cracking the code figure out the way the puzzle could come together on these on. These issues was what he felt like. He was good at. That's his main skill as a politician reading the room and getting along with other people in figuring out ways to bring people together. Can we talk a little bit about grim as a trial lawyer because it seems to be where he learned some of the techniques that we now see years later. You're in the Senate. Yeah when he ran for president in two thousand fifteen he is all candidates. Do he published this very kind of anodyne campaign pain memoir. That's not very interesting. It's called my story. Great title right. What a grabber? But there was a passage that I thought was it was quite tallying perhaps inadvertently and he's talking about when he became a trial lawyer. He was a Jag lawyer in the Air Force. He talks in the book about how you know when he first started as a trial lawyer. He immediately realized this is what he was meant to do. And he why he says in the book it's it it's like writing directing and starring in a play and he was good at it and he he he talks at length about how he even loved. This sort of business that you do. You shuffle the papers dramatically you you kind of walk across the courtroom in a certain way and you. You make a dramatic pause in that memoir. Graham writes about how he and his law partner a guy named Larry Brand developed this good cop bad cop routine. Whenever whenever they worked a trial together Larry would get a witness? Agitated and Graham would come in and smooth things over. Brandt is still a lawyer down in South Carolina China so mark flew down visit. He is you know a fellow a fellow that he also had sort of mentor role to grand. But they're still friends. They have dinner together when grams back in town you know. I met with him in his office. And this and this guy is you know he said he's voted for Republicans and Democrats. It's but that he loathes trump his flag was at half mast and he said it's not going back up to full mast until trump is out of office so we were sitting in his law office office and he said you know. Lindsey has sat right here where you're sitting and I've you know rundown trump and he's just laughed and said that trump's like a little boy and and he's just as baffled as everyone else by the change grams relationship with trump has been especially baffling to his former law partner shore but also to casual political observers. When the president was running for office? Graham was one of his biggest critics. He'd say if you wanted to make America great again you should tell Donald Trump to go to hell what turns you on about crews that he's not trump when Graham showed up on the daily show back then. He was endorsing Ted Cruz even though he joked about murdering Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate that's how much he hated trump think. His campaign campaign is opportunistic race baiting religious bigotry xenophobia other the net he'd be a good nominee but when donald trump was actually elected. All of this started to change the Bob Woodward Book about Trump's first year in office fear has a section that it the sources probably either Graham himself or somebody very close to Graham but but basically you know he'd been very critical of trump throughout the campaign. I didn't vote for trump. He voted for Evan mcmullan. The third party candidate a few months into the presidency. Ryan's previous the chief of staff at the time came to came him to grandma and said look. You're a fun guy. He needs to have fun guys around him. Why don't you come to the Oval Office? And just meet him and so Graham takes the meeting of course and he goes in with a prepared speech but before he can deliver it trump apparently jumps up and gives them a big hug. And says I need you to be my friend and and Graham in at that moment it seems like he launched into his familiar country lawyer mode where he sign opening and took it and he basically started to flatter president trump. And said you know I'm paraphrasing but basically you're screwed with this congress but he didn't use the word screwed and You know they're. They're incompetent if I was looking to buy a used car. I would not let a single one of these people. You know. Help negotiate I would let you. You buy a used car Mr President. He just you know it seems like such naked such a naked appeal to his ego especially that early early on in trump's presidency. Maybe not an unreasonable play. If you think about this guy somebody who has no real deep policy beliefs chiefs very little actual policy knowledge. I mean he he. You know the thing that that trump cares about is himself you know and and feeling the keys one. So if you're somebody like Graham or Paul Ryan or any number of Republicans you might at that early stage of okay. Maybe I'll play the game a little bit. Maybe suck it up. It'll be kind of humiliating but I can. I can work work. This guy in whispering his ear and nudge him in my direction. The thing about getting closer to the president was it for Graham. It meant rejecting so much woodhead woodhead said and done before trump took office. Grandma's spent years cultivating a relationship with John McCain. He considered a mentor. Almost a father figure and McCain was one of the few lawmakers in Washington who openly despised. The president trump was even banned from McCain's funeral somehow. Oh that didn't deter Graham. The thing is he didn't really go full trunk. Sycophant until after McCain's death. I mean the really the moment things seemed to turn that everybody points to is the cavenaugh hearing there. Was this big surprising. Dramatic moment where Graham just rupp's this system out wrote unethical sham since I've been in politics and if you really wanted to know the truth you sure as hell wouldn't have done on what you've done to this guy. I cannot imagine what you and your family going through. Boy Won't power hope. You never get it. I hope the American people can see through this sham. Nobody really saw it coming. And and that felt like the turning point and after that he was fully team trump. I think he he you know he's facing reelection this year. Two Thousand Twenty people I talk to in South Carolina including a conservative. You've been blogger. Game will folks told me that he'd written a column a couple of years earlier titled Dead Senator Walking. He said grams pulling pulling was so bad he he was he was definitely primary and there. He did not have a chance so graham you know again. He sees the polling. He knows what's up and Post Kavanagh. His poll numbers in the state went up twenty points and his fundraising went through the roof. I mean this last year the third quarter of two thousand nineteen he. He raised more money than any other Republican. Senator I mean the quote this blogger gave. You was the same down here is they. Wouldn't Piss on him if he was on fire. People really seemed to dislike Lindsey Graham. I guess there's an argument to be made that changing changing like this maybe responding to his constituents yeah I mean to degree and I do wonder if psychologically weekly you know the cavenaugh hearing could have been a way of surviving. You know like like putting on that show could have been a way of signaling. His conservative good standing to the people back home but the way it ended up playing out he he was suddenly only the white hot center of attention. In a way that he hadn't been before that think about it he had been John McCain sidekick. He had been the the Republican who would always be trying to compromise with Democrats. But you couldn't really trust him now. He's the guy who talks to the president almost almost every day who goes golfing with. Who knows what the president is thinking? Reporters WanNa talk to that guy. Reporters gather around outside of his office. He's you know invited on all all the Sunday shows he's as he himself said he wants to be relevant and he's very relevant. Now you spoke to this Guy Steve Schmidt who worked with John McCain and he sees what you're talking about now this relevance as sort of part and parcel of the relationship that Lindsey Zi Graham cultivated with John McCain. He used such an elegant example of it. Being like Lindsey Graham is a pilot fish fish and he's looking for a shark to protect him. Yeah basically a yeah sort of Alpha Beta analogy. He said you know for years. And in years the pilot fish that is Lindsay Graham attached himself to the shark that was John McCain and because that shark the McCain Shark was seen as a virtuous and good shark Lindsay took on those those attributes as well trump's the new shark. And you know he says that that what Graham Watts more than anything is that kind of power and he can't achieve it on his own merits he needs to attach himself to somebody. And the way you're putting it. It sounds a little bit like he's leveled up. Yeah that's a good way of putting it you. You must have tried to get Lindsey Graham to speak to you for this article are we did. Yeah this time around. His spokesperson said that you know he was thanked me for for reaching out but just said he was too busy. Yeah it would have been great to talk to him. I wonder why you think some of the sources you talked to wanted to speak with you. I mean you. You spoke to people who were quite close with Lindsey Graham including this law partner. Who worked with him for years still has a relationship with them? Why do you think they wanted to talk? I think a lot of these people WANNA get a message to him in a way the law partner. Certainly Larry Brandt Iran feels really confused and on some level betrayed. He told me that he's starting years defending Graham to people in South Carolina. People people writing them down saying You know this guy. I don't trust him. He's kind of squished. She goes back and forth and in Branson he's always defended him and now he feels like he can't defend him and there was a real real sense of betrayal. Among a lot of people everyone was was watching Graham carefully as he started to suddenly be. Trump's best buddy golfing with him making these obsequious speeches about him and people were just talking amongst themselves saying like okay. What's play? What's he doing is he? Trying to be angling angling for a cabinet position as you. Honeybee Attorney General. What's getting That's the that's the mystery so I think I think people wanted to just send him a message this fall. Aw Mark was watching Graham carefully to trying to figure this puzzle out. And that's when he saw this tape from a White House Event Linzie. I'd like to have you come up and say a few words. You've been terrific. Thank you Graham. told his own version of his first White House meeting with the president the one where trump hugged him asked for his. There's help after got beat like a dog which she likes hearing he called me over the White House and said I'd like you to help me love to help you be a great president. And he says I don't have your phone number and I said there's a reason for that and the crowd. You know laughs knowingly because of course during the campaign when when Graham was running against trump trump famously speech called him an idiot and then gave out his his telephone number at the televised rally and told his supporters. You should try this number and did and they did. And it's a funny. You know grams sort of tells how's the self deprecating story about it and says you know that was the highlight of my campaign. ha ha ha. The HALIDE AMAC campaign was when you gave out my phone number if I did as well as my phone number might have been in a different story. Then I went back and looked in in short. Actually what set trump off was graham attacking trump in the wake of trump's remarks about MC John McCain His his very infamous remarks. About how you you know. He prefers war heroes who aren't captured. And after trump said that you know Graham went on television and basically said there's no way the American people will elect this guy he's completely unfit in. And that's what trump was responding to and so it's it's really interesting that now he's now it's a joke doc and defending John McCain. Yeah this docs thing that happened in the wake of his defensive John McCain his very noble defensive his is good friend one of his best friends is now a joke. And it's it's part of a a speech. He's giving to boost this president a speech which ended with him saying Dang. God bless you Mr President. You know when you re elected this fall. LABA HM How did you end up? Feeling about Lindsey Graham. When all your reporting was over I find him still? Will you know despite having spoken with all of these people I still find him somewhat. mystifying figure I mean I think you know the simplest answer to why he's doing what he's doing is of course just survival. You WanNa many senator in South Carolina you have to be close to the president. It's politics he's done again where he's basically said as much. Then you kind of get to thinking about well. What are his core beliefs? Does he have core beliefs. You know like maybe there aren't core beliefs. Maybe hanging onto power is what it's all about hanging onto relevancy. Whatever that Lavigne's Mark Bonelli thank you so much for joining me? Thanks thanks so much for having me. Mark Bonelli writes for rolling stone and The New York Times magazine. And that's the show. What next is produced by Mary? Wilson Jason De Leon Daniel Hewitt and Morris Silvers. I Mary Harris. You can follow me on twitter and not just because I tweet pictures of Marco's of Stern. I'm also just like funny sometimes times. Okay all right here tomorrow