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Tucker Carlson accuses Lindsey Graham of convincing Trump to talk to Woodward

Fox News host Tucker CarlsonTucker CarlsonTucker Carlson bashes CNN, claims it's 'more destructive' than QAnon Former Trump officials eye bids for political office Jill Biden picks up where she left off MORE on Wednesday accused Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTanden withdraws nomination as Biden budget chief FBI director faces lawmaker frustration over Capitol breach Juan Williams: Hypocrisy runs riot in GOP MORE (R-S.C.) of convincing President TrumpDonald TrumpSouth Carolina Senate adds firing squad as alternative execution method Ex-Trump aide Pierson won't run for Dallas-area House seat House Oversight panel reissues subpoena for Trump's accounting firm MORE to sit for interviews with Bob Woodward for the journalist's forthcoming book "Rage" that reveals remarks by the president downplaying the coronavirus threat publicly while acknowledging its severity in private.

Carlson, just hours after recordings of Woodward's interviews with Trump were released, said it is “surprising” that Trump sat for interviews with Woodward for the book.

“Why in the world would he do that? Well, tonight from a source who knows the answer to that mystery, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina,” Carlson said, without naming his source. “It was Lindsey Graham who helped convince Donald Trump to talk to Bob Woodward, Lindsey Graham brokered that meeting, Lindsey Graham even sat in on the first interview between Bob Woodward and the president. How'd that turn out?”

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The Washington Post, which reported on excerpts of the book and the recordings, reported that Trump spoke with Woodward during 18 separate interviews in which the president acknowledged he was downplaying the threat of the coronavirus to the public as early as February.

It is unclear if Carlson is accusing Graham of also playing a role in convincing Trump to speak to Woodward following the first call.

Trump himself addressed his decision to sit for interviews with Woodward during an interview with Fox News’s Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityGrenell hints at potential California gubernatorial bid Cruz blames criticism of Cancun trip on media 'Trump withdrawal' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Tanden's odds plummet to lead OMB MORE on Wednesday, after Carlson’s show.

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Trump gave no indication that he was convinced by an outside source to speak with Woodward, saying it “wasn’t a big deal” that he spoke with Woodward and adding that he “almost definitely” won’t read the book because he “doesn't have time.”

Carlson also questioned Graham’s loyalty to the Republican Party and president during his show.

“Lindsey Graham is supposed to be a Republican, so why would he do something like that?” Carlson asked.

“You'd have to ask him, but keep in mind that Lindsey Graham has opposed, passionately opposed, virtually every major policy initiative that Donald Trump articulated when he first ran, from ending illegal immigration, to pulling back from pointless wars, to maintaining law and order at home, Lindsey Graham was against all of that more than many Democrats. So maybe you already know the answer.”

Graham, who also briefly ran for president in 2016, was critical of Trump during the campaign, but throughout Trump’s first term in office the South Carolina senator has often been one of the president's staunchest allies. 

Asked about Carlson’s accusations, Graham’s spokesperson, Kevin Bishop, said the senator “strongly supports” Trump’s reelection, pointing to an op-ed Graham wrote for Fox News last month.

Bishop also noted a Politico article published Wednesday about Trump’s cooperation with the Woodward book. The news outlet reported that current White House staffers tried to pin the decision to help Woodward on aides who are no longer with the administration, but the president himself made the call to work with Woodward.

Trump faced intense scrutiny on Wednesday after the recordings of the interviews with Woodward were released, largely around his comments acknowledging he downplayed the threat of the coronavirus. 

Asked by reporters if he downplayed the virus or misled the public after the recordings were released, Trump told reporters, “If you said in order to reduce panic, perhaps that’s so.” 

"The fact is I'm a cheerleader for this country. I love our country," Trump added. "I don't want people to be frightened. I don't want to create panic, as you say, and certainly, I'm not going to drive this country or the world into a frenzy."

Woodward’s “Rage” is set to be released next week and is his second book on the Trump presidency. Trump did not speak with Woodward for his previous book, "Fear."

--Updated at 11:30 a.m.