Did U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina work with the Trump White House to try to oust the Senate’s GOP majority leader?
Graham, a Seneca Republican, disputes that account — reported in a new book by veteran Watergate journalist Bob Woodward — at least as far as his side of things go.
Woodward’s book on President Donald Trump — entitled “Fear: Trump in the White House” — is drawing attention in Washington because of some explosive claims about the president and his staff.
But South Carolina’s senior senator also makes an appearance in the book, where it is suggested he might have worked with former Trump adviser Steve Bannon to oust U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as the majority leader in the U.S. Senate.
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Bannon even suggested Graham could take McConnell’s place as the Senate’s most powerful member, the new book says.
Not true, according to Graham, who told McClatchy his side of the story about “my one line” in Woodward’s new book.
Graham said his only interaction with Bannon, who left the White House in August of last year, was to discuss his proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act, co-sponsored with U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La.
Last summer, Graham was working feverishly to get support for his proposal, including lobbying senior aides in the Trump administration.
“Here’s what happened,” Graham said Wednesday. “I worked with Bannon to deal with Graham-Cassidy. He got behind that. He didn’t like McConnell. He said, ‘Do you want to be majority leader?’ and I said, ‘No, thank you, I want to do the (Graham-Cassidy) block grant.’
“So that’s (Bannon’s) agenda (ousting McConnell), not mine.”
Graham told McClatchy his intent was never to launch a challenge to McConnell, who remains Senate majority leader, setting the Senate’s agenda.
“He’s frustrated with Mitch,” Graham said of Bannon. “But my goal was to get a vote, and we did. I’m all for Mitch.”
Near the end of September 2017, it appeared the Graham-Cassidy plan would receive a vote, but McConnell pulled the plug when it became clear the proposal would not pass.
However, the new book on Trump might have been different if Graham had his way.
Graham acted as a middleman between Woodward and Trump to get the journalist an interview with Trump, according to a recorded phone call between Woodward and the president.
Trump called Woodward ahead of the new book’s publication to say his staff had not told him that Woodward wanted to interview him for the book. Woodward says he tried other ways to reach the president, according to a transcript published by the Washington Post.
“Sen. Graham said he had talked to you about talking to me. Now, is that not true?” Woodward asked the president.
“Sen. Graham actually mentioned it quickly in one meeting,” Trump replied.
“Yes. Well, see. And then nothing happened,” Woodward said.