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Dem. Rep. Ilhan Omar defends unsubstantiated claim that Donald Trump is blackmailing Lindsey Graham


She claimed that while she doesn't have proof, 'lots of Americans' agree with her

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) doubled down on CNN Thursday to defend an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory about Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that she had promoted on Twitter.

First, some background

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Graham, who had unsuccessfully run himself, was one of then-candidate Donald Trump's fiercest critics. In December 2015, he called Trump "a race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot" and said Trump "doesn't represent my party. He doesn't represent the values that the men and women who wear the uniform are fighting for." In January 2016, Graham compared the GOP primary choice between Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) as a choice between "being shot or poisoned."

But in 2018, Graham became one of Trump's most vocal supporters in the Senate.

While most observers chalk this up to politics as usual, MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle wildly speculated Tuesday that there could be a more sinister reason behind it.

"It could be that Donald Trump or somebody knows something pretty extreme about Lindsey Graham," she said. "We're gonna have to leave it there."

What did Rep. Omar say?

Following Ruhle's lead, Omar retweeted a tweet Tuesday claiming that Trump's team must be blackmailing Graham. She added "They got to him, he is compromised!"

This tweet was met with swift criticism.

During an interview Thursday, "CNN Newsroom" co-anchor Jim Sciutto asked Omar to clarify what she had meant by her tweet. She responded:

So, over the last three years, we have seen many times where Sen. Lindsey Graham has told us how dangerous this president could be if he was given the opportunity to be in the White House. And, all of a sudden, he's made not only a 180 turn around, but a 360 turn around.

And so I am pretty sure that there is something happening with him, whether it is something that has to do with his funding when it comes to running for office, whether it has something to do with the polling that they might have in his district or whether it has to do with some sort of leadership within the Senate.

He is somehow compromised to no longer stand up for the truth, and to make sure that he is fighting to protect the oath that he took in serving the American people.

When Siutto asked her what evidence she had for such a claim against a sitting U.S. senator, Omar replied vaguely, "The evidence is really present to us. It's being presented to us in the way that he's behaving."

When "Newsroom" co-anchor Poppy Harlow contested that this was still not evidence and pointed out that Omar had tweeted this claim as a sitting member of Congress, Omar deflected. "My tweet was just an opinion, based on what I believe to be visible to me, and I'm pretty sure there are lots of Americans who agree on this."

TheBlaze has reached out to the offices of Omar and Graham for comment but they have not responded.

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