Less than 24 hours after Donald Trump canceled House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s official trip to visit troops in Afghanistan, a trip that Trump himself has yet to make, one of Trump’s top allies in the United States Senate — Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — appeared in Turkey on Friday where he was photographed shaking hands with the country’s political strongman President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, according to the Turkish Andalou Agency news service.
Trump’s order canceling Pelosi’s travel to Afghanistan — a trip that had not been previously announced due to security concerns — came the day after Pelosi postponed Trump’s annual State of the Union address due to the government shutdown, as CNN reported.
But even as Trump in a letter to Pelosi posted on Twitter by Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders cited the shutdown and the 800,000 federal workers currently not receiving pay as the reason why Pelosi’s trip was not “appropriate,” Graham was apparently on his way to visit Erdoğan — who has become a central figure in the Trump-Russia collusion scandal.
Trump’s former national security adviser secretly worked for Erdoğan, covertly lobbying to get a top Turkish opposition figure living in the United States sent back to Turkey, as NBC News reported. Flynn has also pleaded guilty to lying about his Russia contacts.
Erdoğan’s office released a photo of the Turkish president greeting Graham on Friday.
— Turkish Presidency (@trpresidency) January 18, 2019
“Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan received Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham in the capital Ankara on Friday, presidential sources said,” the pro-Erdoğan Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak reported. “Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalın and presidential communications director Fahrettin Altun were present at the closed-door meeting held at the Presidential Complex.”
The paper said that Graham and the Turkish president discussed “recent developments in Syria and bilateral relations.” Though Graham has been a key defender of Trump in the Senate, the South Carolina senator has been critical of Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, as CNN has reported.
Graham’s trip — like Pelosi’s before Trump revealed its existence — had not been publicly announced. The Turkish media was first to report Graham’s presence in the Turkish capital. About a week ago, Graham released a statement via Twitter saying that he planned to meet with Erdoğan “in the near future.”
According to Pelosi’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Drew Hammill, writing on Twitter, Trump’s revelation of the trip to greet and thank troops posed “grave threats” to the security of the mission.
“In the middle of the night, State Dept’s Diplomatic Security Service provided an updated threat assessment detailing that the President announcing this sensitive travel had significantly increased danger to the delegation & to troops, security, & other officials supporting trip,” Hammill wrote on his official Twitter account.