Lindsey Graham recently had a dramatic switch from Trump critic and proponent of the Mueller investigation into, seemingly, Trump’s biggest fan. There’s also recently released footage of Mike Pence and other cabinet members showering the president with praise and support. On Thursday night’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, authoritarianism expert Sarah Kendzior expressed the belief that Trump could, in fact, be blackmailing the Republican lawmakers.
According to an article in AlterNet, Kendzior told guest host Joy Reid that it is known at this point that both the emails of the RNC, as well as Lindsey Graham’s personal emails, were hacked by the same Russian operatives who hacked Hillary Clinton’s emails. She went on to say that Graham is known to be one of the many Republicans in congress to have benefitted from donations of “dark money” from Russian nationals believed to be aligned with the Kremlin, and that throughout his entire career as a real estate mogul, Donald Trump has been known to use blackmail as a weapon to control his political opponents.
An article in Raw Story speculated even further that Graham’s recent behavior could be related to rumors about his sexuality that have been circulating in Washington circles for years. The Raw Story piece also mentioned that Mike Huckabee, early in the year, had publicly questioned the sexuality of Graham, who has never married.
Kendzior told Reid on Thursday night’s program that she is worried that many in the Republican party don’t seem to be acting of their own free will.
“I think what concerns me most is that they seem afraid. They seem unable to stand up for themselves. They lack all dignity. Trump has berated them, he has insulted them. He’s often gone after their wives and their family members, saying terrible things and yet they prostrate themselves to him. What kind of leader are you? What kind of man are you?”
Kendzior’s comments to Reid occurred a day after footage was released of a cabinet meeting in which members of the Trump administration went around the room to each offer praise for the president’s leadership in getting his recent tax bill passed through congress. According to an article in the Washington Post, Vice President Mike Pence capped off the spectacle by praising Trump for almost a full three minutes, offering 14 effusively glowing statements about the president. The Washington Post worked that out mathematically to one item of praise for roughly every 12.5 seconds.
Naturally, Twitter’s army of commentators were quick to make fun and call out the vice president for his behavior.
Sarah Kendzior is a well known expert on authoritarian states in central Asia, as well as a frequent and outspoken critic of the Trump administration. She is an opinion columnist for the Globe and Mail and the author of a collection of essays entitled The View From Flyover Country.
You can watch video of her conversation with Joy Reid below.