Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who famously blocked the Senate passage of the Armenian Genocide resolution told the Axios news site that the White House forced him to go to the Senate floor, after meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, and block the vote.
On November 13, immediately after Erdogan and President Donald Trump held a press conference at the White House, New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez called for a unanimous consent vote for S.Res. 105—the Armenian Genocide resolution. Graham took to the Senate floor and cited his meeting with Erdogan on that day as the reason to not pass the Senate resolution saying that in view of the current crisis in Syria, as well as discussions with Turkey on its purchase of Russian weapons, the Senate should not move forward with the affirmation of the Armenian Genocide.
Axios reported that during the Oval Office meeting with Erdogan Graham had scolded the Turkish leader over his invasion of Syria and attacks on the Kurds, according to sources in the room.
Reportedly, Erdogan pulled out his iPad and showed the Oval Office group a propaganda video depicting the leader of the primarily Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces as a terrorist. Graham then chided him, saying, “Well, do you want me to go get the Kurds to make one about what you’ve done?” he said.
Graham confirmed to Axios that as he was leaving the Oval Office, a senior White House staff member asked him to return the Senate and block the Armenian genocide.
“After the meeting, we kind of huddled up and talked about what happened,” Graham told Axios adding that he was asked to “object” to the resolution by a White House legislative affairs official
“I said sure,” Graham told Axios. “The only reason I did it is because he [Erdogan] was still in town. … That would’ve been poor timing. I’m trying to salvage the relationship if possible.”
Axios asked Graham whether he felt uncomfortable blocking the Armenian genocide resolution, and he replied: “Yeah. Because I like Bob [Menendez]. 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.”
“I’m not going to object next time,” Graham added.
The “next time” happened on Thursday when Menendez and Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz introduced the resolution again, only to be blocked by Georgia Republican Senator David Purdue, who was reportedly asked by the White House to oppose the measure.
On the Senate floor on Thursday, Perdue cited Erdogan’s meeting with Trump and the meeting between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Turkish leaders in Belgium last week as the reason for his objection.
“Senator Perdue objected due to concerns that passage of the resolution would jeopardize the sensitive negotiations going on in the region with Turkey and other allies,” said a Perdue spokesperson told Axios.
“No surprise. In the current Washington, DC environment – particularly in the wake of the near unanimous (405-11) U.S. House adoption of the Armenian Genocide Resolution – no Senator is inclined – of their own accord – to stick their neck out – assuming major moral, media, and even electoral liabilities – in defense of Recep Erdogan’s lies,” said Armenian National Committee of America Executive Director Aram Suren Hamparian. The ANCA has issued a nationwide call alert to share disappointment with Sen. Perdue’s opposition and encourage him to allow a vote on the Senate floor. Perdue may be reached at (202) 224-3521.
Menendez has vowed to continue pursuing the passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution.
“I think Armenian-Americans, the world, and history should record who stands on the side of recognizing genocide for what it is — and who does not,” Menendez said in a statement.