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Sen. Graham’s Office Blames WH Chiefs of Staff For Woodward Debacle

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Senator Lindsey Graham‘s office pushed back on allegations made by Fox News host Tucker Carlson that he coordinated and pushed for President Donald Trump to sit down with The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward. Instead, his office noted that the President’s White House aides were charged with the approval process and in the end it the final decision rested with Trump.

Graham’s office reiterated that the Senator is a staunch defender of President Trump, saying Trump fully cooperated “with Woodard for this book,” while Chiefs of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Mark Meadows allowed the interviews.

A few excerpts were released this week of Woodward’s forthcoming book and they allege that the President downplayed the coronavirus pandemic when he knew it had a higher mortality rate than other common viruses such as the flu.

Trump says he didn’t want to instill fear in the American people and took early action that prevented many deaths.

Graham’s office pointed to Politico, which reported “In 2018, White House aides shielded Trump from an interview for his book ‘Fear’ because they didn’t want to give the author more ammunition than he already had. The book was withering — portraying the Trump administration suffering a ‘nervous breakdown’ with anecdotes from current and former aides inside and outside the administration.”

The piece adds that upon the release of excerpts of Woodward’s new book, “White House aides quickly started blame one another. Newer White House staffers tried to pin the decision to help Woodward on previous offices or particular aides, even though the president himself made the call to work with the author.”

It adds, “The interviews took place over a few iterations of the White House staff, including during the tenures of acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and current chief of staff Mark Meadows, with Woodward reporting through most of the summer. His first meeting with Trump occurred in early February at the White House.”

Meadows, who began his tenure at the White House in April, defends he wouldn’t have approved Woodward’s interviews if he had been there from the start. “I’m not surprised that the President was on the phone with Bob Woodward,” Meadows told Fox News host Martha MacCallum Wednesday. “Honestly, his access to the White House is probably something that I would not have recommended had I been in the Chief of Staff role very early on.”

The Senator’s office also pointed to an August Fox News op-ed in which Graham emphatically presented his endorsement of President Trump for the 2020 election. “While I’ve had my differences with the president in terms of policy and style, I will be enthusiastically voting for Donald Trump in 2020 – not just against Joe Biden,” Graham wrote in the piece.

He added, “President Trump has been a disruptive force for good, changing the status quo in a way that will benefit working Americans in every corner of American society. ”

Graham then applauded a number of Trump’s accomplishments, including his support of the military, his push for deregulation and tax cuts, a crackdown on the Chinese Communist Party, and his early response to the novel coronavirus, among a number of other policies.

“I will be voting for Donald Trump in 2020. He has earned my vote, and I think he’s earned yours too,” Graham concluded.

Graham has yet to deny an alleged role in the Woodward debacle.

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Cuomo says he’ll ‘fully cooperate’ with NY AG’s review of sexual harassment claims

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Wednesday that he will “fully cooperate” with the state attorney general’s independent review into sexual harassment allegations made against the currently scandal-ridden governor, saying, “I fully support a woman’s right to come forward.”

Last Wednesday, Lindsey Boylan, who served in his administration for over three years, accused Cuomo of suggesting to her on a 2017 flight that they play strip poker, inappropriate touching, and kissing her on the lips without her consent.

RELATED: ‘Let’s play strip poker’: Fmr. Cuomo aide accuses NY governor of sexual harassment

Following Boylan’s accusations, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett alleged the governor indicated interest in having an affair with her while she was serving in his administration as a health policy adviser. In a Saturday New York Times report, Bennett told the newspaper that Cuomo asked her if she had “ever been with an older man,” adding that “age doesn’t matter” in relationships.

At Wednesday’s press briefing, the Empire State governor addressed the accusations leveled against him over the past seven days by three women and New York Attorney General Letitia James’ (D) independent review into those claims, which she announced on Monday was formally proceeding.

RELATED: De Blasio ‘sickened’ by Cuomo sexual harassment claims

“As you probably know, the attorney general is doing an independent review, and I will fully cooperate with that review,” Cuomo said at the beginning of his statement. “Now, the lawyers say I shouldn’t say anything when you have a pending review until that review is over. I understand that, I’m a lawyer, too. But, I want New Yorkers to hear from me directly on this.”

“First, I fully support a woman’s right to come forward,” the governor began. “And I think it should be encouraged in every way. I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it, and frankly I am embarrassed by it, and that’s not easy to say. But that’s the truth.”

This echoes what Cuomo said in a Sunday statement about the allegations, in which he stated he “may have been insensitive” during his tenure but charged his accusers of misinterpreting his actions, saying, “I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation… I am truly sorry about that.”

RELATED: Cuomo responds to sexual harassment claims, saying he ‘may have been insensitive’

During his Wednesday remarks, Cuomo iterated “I never touched anyone inappropriately,” repeated that sentence, then said “I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable” and repeated that one too.

“And I certainly never, ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain. That is the last thing I would ever want to do,” he continued. “I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general’s report before forming an opinion. Get the facts, please, before forming an opinion.”

“I also want you to know that I have learned from what has been an incredibly difficult situation for me as well as other people, and I’ve learned an important lesson,” the governor said at the end of his statement. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone, I never intended it, and I will be the better for this experience.”

Amid Boylan and Bennett’s allegations, another report of Cuomo sexually harassing a woman has cropped up. On Monday, a woman named Anna Ruch accused the governor of placing his hands on her cheeks—without her consent—at a 2019 wedding reception and asking if he could kiss her. A photograph of the two together at the event has also been circulating on social media.

RELATED: ‘Eat the whole sausage: Gov. Cuomo in hot water for resurfaced video

Asked at Wednesday’s briefing about the pictures that have resurfaced of him being touchy with people, particularly that of him and Ruch, the governor claimed that it is his way of greeting people.

“I understand the opinion of—and feelings of—Ms. Ruch,” Cuomo said. “You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people—women, children, men, etc. You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people. […] It is my usual and customary way of greeting.”

Moreover, the governor said that his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, would do the same thing.

“By the way, it was my father’s way of greeting people,” Cuomo said, explaining, “You’re the governor of the state, you want people to feel comfortable, you want to reach out to them.”

He also mentioned that he kisses and hugs legislators and noted that at an event in Queens the other day he hugged pastors and state assembly members.

Furthermore, the governor said that his intent “doesn’t matter,” saying, “What it matters is if anybody was offended by it.”

“But if they were offended by it, then it was wrong,” he added, going on to say that if they were offended or hurt by it, he apologizes.

MORE ON CUOMO: NY dem says state legislature is ‘inching toward’ Cuomo impeachment probe

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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