Graham Gets Into Heated Argument With Trump Official


President Donald Trump’s team is failing to even consolidate support from their own side. At the recently concluded Munich Security Conference, Trump ally and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is now reported to have fiercely told off a Trump administration official, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, with whom he was disagreeing about the future of U.S. troops in Africa. Reportedly, although there’s not immediate detail about what Graham might have had in mind, he told Esper that he could make the official’s life “hell” if he dared to try and withdraw U.S. troops from the Sahel region in Africa.

Reportedly, the impromptu-style meeting in which Graham confronted Esper also included three other members of Congress, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Chris Coons (D-Del.).

NBC reports, citing anonymous sources:

‘At one point, Graham warned Esper that there would be consequences if the Pentagon withdrew all troops from the region. Graham told Esper that he could “make your life hell,” according to the four people. One member present said Graham, Coons and several other lawmakers laid out their case “forcefully.”

Pentagon Press Secretary Alyssa Farah claims that she was in the room for the interactions in question and that Graham supposedly didn’t use quite that forceful language, but eventually, Esper reportedly “reassured the group that he would factor their concerns into the decision-making process and would not make any sudden decisions,” although that doesn’t mean that Trump won’t make any “sudden decisions.” His presidency seems like little other than a stream of those kind of rash decisions — for example, that’s what underlined his abrupt announcement of a planned troop withdrawal from Syria, where the U.S. had been fighting ISIS. That decision was just as quickly reversed, and some U.S. troops remain in the area.

The Sahel region includes countries like Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Nigeria. NBC notes that “More than a dozen terrorist groups with links to the Islamic State group or al Qaeda, like Boko Haram and al Shabaab, are operating in the Sahel and other parts of Africa,” and at present, the U.S. maintains around 1,000 troops in the region, who “train local forces, provide aerial refueling to French military planes and collect and share intelligence,” NBC adds.

The troops’ withdrawal has been considered in order to shore up defenses against Russia and China, who are outlined in the most recent National Security Strategy as the supposed steepest threats to the U.S. In response to the Defense Secretary’s concerns, Graham and the others present reportedly sought to reassure him that they could find the money and should not abandon their allies, like Trump seems so keen on doing time and time again. They also argued that a withdrawal would provide an opening for more terrorist attacks.

Trump has campaigned against so-called “endless wars” overseas, but he’s failed to actually dial down the U.S. military presences in international locales. Recently, reports circulated about the successful drafting of a peace deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan, but how that plays out remains to be seen.