Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who was excoriated as “spineless” and “despicable” for blocking a Senate resolution to formally recognize the Armenian genocide, told Axios Sunday that he’d cast the vote at the behest of the White House.
In the hours before the vote on Nov. 13, Graham had been in an Oval Office meeting with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Donald Trump. Axios reported that Graham had “hurried back to the Senate floor” immediately after the meeting and became the sole holdout in a bipartisan effort to pass the resolution by unanimous consent.
Graham said at the time that lawmakers shouldn’t “sugarcoat history or try to rewrite it.” The senator, however, offered a different reason for his dissent in an interview with Axios.
After his meeting with Erdogan and Trump, Graham said a White House legislative affairs official had asked him to “please object” to the resolution — which sought to officially recognize as genocide the 1915 massacre and displacement of Armenians carried out by the Ottoman Empire, the precursor to the country of Turkey.
“I said sure,” Graham recalled of his response to the request. “The only reason I did it is because [Erdogan] was still in town ... That would’ve been poor timing. I’m trying to salvage the relationship if possible.”
Graham added that he’d felt uncomfortable about blocking the resolution “because I like Bob [Menendez],” the New Jersey Democrat who introduced the measure.
“He’s been working on this for years, but I did think with the president of Turkey in town that was probably more than the market would bear,” Graham said, stressing that he would “not … object next time” to the measure.