Trump ally Franklin Graham, an evangelical preacher who shoulders much of the blame for finally separating the American white evangelical movement from identifiable “Christianity” once and for all, traveled to Russia earlier this March to meet with prominent (and sanctioned) Russian officials. This raises two obvious questions. One: Why was evangelical Trump ally Franklin Graham traveling to Russia to meet with sanctioned Russian officials? And two: Why the hell was evangelical Trump ally Franklin Graham traveling to Russia to meet with sanctioned Russian officials?
Per a captioned photo re-posted from the Duma Instagram account to Graham’s own Instagram account, the meeting with [sanctioned Russian Duma Speaker] Volodin focused “on the current state of U.S.-Russia relations,” including “the possibility of intensifying contacts between the State Duma and the U.S. Congress.”
That’s the story? That Franklin Graham trundled off to meet with U.S.-sanctioned Russian officials in an effort to make nicey-nicey on behalf of the U.S. Congress, which Graham isn’t in, has never been in, and which has an exceedingly ample travel budget of its own for these things? Why?
In an interview with RIA Novosti, a major Russian state-run outlet, Graham said he called Pence directly to tell him of the trip. “He was very happy to hear the news,” Graham said. “And he admitted that he fully supported my decision.”
You know, Vice President Mike Pence has an entire government agency at his disposal to facilitate communications with Russia. It’s called the State Department, and while the White House may have gutted a good portion of it, this is still the sort of thing that is right in its wheelhouse. Instead, we’re going to ignore the State Department and have Franklin Graham pop over there? Uh huh.
So a Franklin Graham effort to improve relations between sanctioned Russian leaders and an angry U.S. Congress—translated, a Franklin Graham effort aimed at negotiating an end to U.S. sanctions imposed under the Magnitsky Act, already the subject of multiple meetings between Trump campaign officials and Russian cut-outs during and after the 2016 elections—ends up being “fully supported” by Vice President Mike Pence.
Who, if we’re going to be all pedantic and nosy about this, got his vice presidential slot due to the machinations of Trump campaign head Paul Manafort, a man currently in prison for his actions on behalf of pro-Russian foreign entities and the efforts to cover those ties up, caught up in a federal probe of whether Russian espionage efforts aimed at boosting Trump’s election chances were known or assisted by other members of Trump’s inner circle.
As easy as it is to say that being obliged to meet with the ultimate American faux-Christian con artist is more punishment than privilege and leave it at that, there’s a backstory here that we’re not getting. Conservative and evangelical efforts to redeem the Russian kleptocracy have been going strong for a decade, to be sure, but the notion of tele-shouter Franklin Graham jetting off to patch relations with Russia on behalf of the U.S. Congress, with no apparent input from that Congress itself, is a bit much.
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