Alexey Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov, two radio hosts who also pranked House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., in 2018, managed to reach Graham by phone and successfully impersonate Turkey’s defense minister. Graham relayed President Trump’s diplomatic interests offered to the senator during a private conversation between the two. None of the information appeared to be sensitive enough to raise concerns.
Audio of the call, first released by Politico, showed Graham repeatedly assuring the pranksters of Trump’s interest in military and economic cooperation with Turkey — specifically mentioning efforts towards a free trade agreement and restoring Turkey’s position in a joint airstrike fighter program.
“The president told me to tell President Erdogan that he wants to turn the discussion to a free trade agreement,” Graham said at one point during the conversation. He proceeded to offer to arrange a call between the two leaders about trade, something he hoped would strengthen relations as the threat of U.S. sanctions loomed over Turkey’s decision to install a Russian missile defense system.
Fox News was able to confirm the call with Graham’s office.
“We have been successful in stopping many efforts to prank Senator Graham and the office, but this one slipped through the cracks,” Kevin Bishop, Graham’s communications director, said in a statement provided to Fox News. “They got him.”
Graham serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has become a key figure in working the president on foreign policy. Initially opposed to Trump in 2016, Graham has become an outspoken supporter of Trump’s approach to Israel and North Korea. That August call came shortly before Trump caused an apparent rift with Graham by deciding to pull U.S. troops out of Syria in October. Graham and other Republicans have criticized that decision as a permission slip for Turkey to enter the war-torn nation and slaughter Kurdish allies with impunity.
Despite their disagreement, Graham continued defending Trump against House Democrats accusing him of pressuring Ukraine’s government to interfere in a foreign election. Trump aides have countered by suggesting that Schiff — one of the chief Democrats pursuing the House’s impeachment inquiry — was willing to influence the 2020 election during a separate call with Russian pranksters.
In a clip posted by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Schiff told the Russian pranksters that he would be willing to accept dirt on Trump from Ukraine. Stolyarov and Kuznetsov had posed as Andriy Parubiy, the former speaker of Ukraine’s parliament, while offering recordings of a Russian journalist and Russian model discussing compromising information about Trump.
Schiff and Graham weren’t the only politicians to get tricked into believing they were talking to prominent politicians. The president himself spoke to comedian John Melendez, apparently thinking he was speaking with Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.
“I find it astounding that the news media’s not picking up the fact that I totally duped the president & got in touch… within in less than 2 hours while he was on Air Force One,” Melendez tweeted in June of 2018.