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Trump Asks Graham to do His Bidding Against Genocide Recognition

The President sides with Turkey against formally recognizing its slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians

Armenians killed by Turks, during the Armenian Genocide 1915. (Photo by: Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

On October 29, 2019, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution on a 405–11 vote to recognize the Armenian genocide, but Sen. Lindsey Graham blocked the resolution November 13. This move perplexed many onlookers; for many years, Congress has been attempting to recognize as genocide the killing, more than a century ago, of 1.5 million Armenians.

Behind the scenes, the Trump administration asked Graham to block the measure, a week later they asked Republican Sen. David Perdue to do so, Axios revealed Sunday.

Asked by a White House legislative affairs official if he would follow their request to object to the measure, Graham said in an interview, “I said sure. The only reason I did it is because he [Erdoğan] was still in town. … That would’ve been poor timing. I’m trying to salvage the relationship if possible.”

Asked if he felt uncomfortable blocking the resolution, Graham said, “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,” he added.

The following week, Menendez and Republican Senator from Texas Ted Cruz introduced the resolution again, and Perdue blocked it at the request of the Trump White House due to the “sensitive negotiations going on in the region with Turkey and other allies,” a Perdue spokesperson said.

In recent decades, the U.S. has consistently failed to officially recoginize the genocide: President Ronald Reagan was the last U.S. president to use the term “genocide” with regards to the Armenians. Candidates Barack Obama and Donald Trump both publicly stated their intention to do so; but as presidents, each failed to follow through.

Since 2006, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) has coauthored resolutions to recognize the Armenian genocide.

“The United States Congress cannot stand idly by and let the truth of genocide be silenced,” said Menendez. “We must commit ourselves to learning the painful history of the Armenians as we seek to build a better world for our own and future generations.”

Graham, who had just had a testy exchange with Erdogan during his meeting with Trump, objected to Menendez’s request, saying lawmakers shouldn’t “sugarcoat history or try to rewrite it.”

The Armenian genocide was centrally planned by the Turkish government from 1915 through 1918. Armenians were deported, abducted, tortured, and forcibly removed from Armenia and Anatolia to Syria. The vast majority died of hunger and thirst in the desert. Throughout the Ottoman Empire, Armenians were massacred and their wealth taken. The atrocities resumed again after the end of World War I, from 1920 to 1923. Armenians were further massacred and expelled.

While preparing to invade Poland and begin what would become the genocide of six million Jews, Hitler justified his decision by telling Reichmarshal Hermann Goering, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

about the author

Barbara Boland is TAC’s foreign policy and national security reporter. Previously, she worked as an editor for the Washington Examiner and for CNS News. She is the author of Patton Uncovered, a book about General George Patton in World War II, and her work has appeared on Fox News, The Hill UK Spectator, and elsewhere. Boland is graduate from Immaculata University in Pennsylvania.  Follow her on Twitter @BBatDC.

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