WASHINGTON – Sen. Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters on Tuesday he does not plan to read the newly released transcripts of testimony in the House impeachment inquiry, calling the entire process an illegitimate "sham."
The South Carolina Republican had previously demanded the testimony be made public. He has been a leading critic of the closed-door hearings being held by the Democratically-controlled committees conducting the initial investigation, calling it "a star-chamber-type inquiry."
Graham was also dismissive of the updated testimony from Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. In his revised statement, Sondland admitted that he had told a Ukrainian official that U.S. military aid was being withheld until Ukraine announced it was opening investigations into the 2016 election and an energy company with ties to former Vice President Joe Biden.
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Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says he won't read any of the transcripts, and dismissed Sondland's reversal.
"I've written the whole process off ... I think this is a bunch of B.S."
— Kathryn Watson (@kathrynw5) November 5, 2019
Sondland's testimony contradicts President Donald Trump's repeated insistence that there was no "quid pro quo" in which he and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani used the aid as leverage to pressure Ukraine into opening those two investigations, which stood to benefit the president politically.
In an Axios interview last month, Graham had indicated he might be willing to vote for Trump's removal from office if such a quid pro quo was established.
"If you could show me that Trump actually was engaging in a quid pro quo, outside the phone call, that would be very disturbing," Graham said.
But on Tuesday, Graham said Sondland's testimony was just "his opinion." He pointed to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's denials of being pressured into opening any investigation and the fact that Ukraine eventually received the aid as evidence that Trump had done nothing wrong.
"The president of the Ukraine didn't believe that and the president of the United States on the phone call didn't say that," Graham said. "So, all this is just intrigue to me."
"I don't care what any bureaucrat says," Graham added. Sondland, a wealthy Republican donor, is not a career foreign service official.
Graham – who has gone as far as calling the impeachment inquiry a "lynching, in every sense" – said the "substance" of the allegations against Trump are "not worthy of an impeachment discussion."
Though Democrats say that the transcript of a July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky corroborates the whistleblower complaint that sparked the inquiry, Graham has said he saw nothing wrong with the call.
"I don't care what anybody else says about the phone call," he said Tuesday. "The phone call, I've made up my own mind, is fine."
When the whistleblower complaint first surfaced, Graham said Congress should not impeach a president based on "hearsay" because the whistleblower did not directly hear evidence of a quid pro quo or the July 25 call.
Though testimony since then has supported the whistleblower's complaint, Graham joined Trump, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and others who have called for the person to come forward.
"The whistleblower statute was never meant to give you anonymity," Graham told reporters.
Last month, he introduced a resolution condemning the impeachment inquiry and demanding a House vote and open hearing where Trump's attorneys can confront his accusers.
Since then, the House voted along party lines to approve the format of the impeachment inquiry moving forward, including the release of the transcripts and the opening of public hearings in the coming weeks.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Lindsey Graham won't read testimony in 'sham' impeachment process