- Both Politico and GQ Magazine reported that the pranksters, Alexey Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov, got through to Graham, one of President Donald Trump's staunchest defenders on Capitol Hill, in August.
- This week, Graham and several other Republicans have broken with Trump over the administration's sudden decision not to interfere in Turkey's ongoing military incursion of Northern Syria, which threatens the Kurds.
- But in the August call, Graham told the prankster who he believed to be Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar that he believed the Kurds posed "a threat," a significant departure from his more recent rhetoric.
- In the call, Graham also brought up Trump's interest in resolving a criminal case against Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold trader and associate of Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.
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A notorious pair of Russian pranksters who previously prank-called Sens. Mitch McConnell and John McCain duped Sen. Lindsey Graham, and called him posing as the Turkish Defense Minister, according to new reports in GQ Magazine and Politico , the latter of which published audio of the call.
The pranksters, Alexey Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov, got through to Graham, one of President Donald Trump's staunchest defenders on Capitol Hill on foreign policy, in August.
This week, Graham and several other Republicans have broken with Trump over the administration's sudden decision not to interfere in Turkey's ongoing military incursion of Northern Syria, which directly threatens the US-allied Kurdish forces, who were key partners in the fight against ISIS.
The Turkish campaign has so far resulted in the deaths of at least 100 Syrian Democratic Forces fighters.
Over the past few days, Graham has excoriated Trump over his decision to pull US forces out of Northern Syria.
In a Monday interview on Fox & Friends , Graham said, "this impulsive decision by the president has undone all the gains we've made, thrown the region into further chaos, Iran is licking their chops, and if I'm an ISIS fighter, I've got a second lease on life."
"I hope I'm making myself clear how shortsighted & irresponsible this decision is, in my view," Graham added. "This to me is just unnerving to its core...ISIS is not defeated. This is the biggest lie being told by this administration."
Graham has also threatened to levy US sanctions against Turkey over their military operation in Syria, and get Turkey expelled from NATO.
But in the August call, Graham told the prankster who he believed to be Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar that he believed the Kurds posed "a threat."
"I told President Trump that Obama made a huge mistake in relying on the YPG Kurds," Graham said, referring to the Kurdish People's Protection Units, a group that has joined the Syrian Democratic Forces' efforts to fight ISIS and wants to create a Kurdish state, which Turkey views as a massive threat to their territorial sovereignty.
"Everything I worried about has come true, and now we have to make sure Turkey is protected from this threat in Syria. I'm sympathetic to the YPG problem, and so is the president, quite frankly," Graham added.
In the call, Graham also brought up Trump's interest in resolving a criminal case against Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold trader and associate of Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.
Bloomberg recently reported that in 2017 , Trump tried to persuade his former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to convince the Department of Justice to drop the charges against Zarrab, which Tillerson refused to do. Zarrab was convicted in 2018 on charges of helping Iran evade US sanctions, and sentenced to serve 32 months in prison.
"And this case involving the Turkish bank, he's very sensitive to that," Graham said, referring to the Zarrab case. "The president wants to be helpful, within the limits of his power."
In 2018, The Atlantic reported that the duo, posing as members of Ukraine's parliament, prank-called House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff claiming that Russian President Vladimir Putin had "pictures of naked Trump" from a purported encounter Trump had with a famous Russian woman.
While Schiff said on the call that the information was "helpful," his staff told The Atlantic in a statement that they had alerted law enforcement before and after the call that it was "probably bogus."
"We leaked him a bunch of disinformation," one of the jokesters told journalist Julia Ioffe , who also reported on the latest prank call to Graham. "It was completely absurd."
Read the full stories at Politico and GQ >>
- Trump's latest tweets on Syria show he has absolutely no plan to help the Kurds as Turkey boasts about killing over 100 of them
- Trump's abrupt decision to pull out of Syria was reportedly made 'instinctively' at the end of his call with Turkey's president
- Republicans and former US officials rip into Trump for abandoning the Kurds in Syria