Obama Asks Graham Not to Comment on Gitmo Transfers

Posted November 13, 2009 at 4:12pm

On a day when Republicans are lining up to blast President Barack Obama for planning to prosecute 9/11 terrorist suspects in New York, one key GOP Senator is holding his fire — at the president’s request.

“I have been asked by the White House to withhold comment about today’s Guantanamo decision until I can meet face-to-face with the President after he returns from Asia,— Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in a statement.

“As our Commander in Chief, I will honor his request. I look forward to discussing this issue further,— Graham said.

Graham’s thoughts on the issue are no secret: During a floor debate last week, he sponsored an amendment aimed at preventing accused 9/11 terrorists held in the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, prison from being tried in U.S. courts. The amendment failed, 54-45.

A White House spokesman declined to comment on why Graham was singled out by the president.

But a Senate Republican aide familiar with the situation speculated that Obama may have felt “he was owed the courtesy of [Graham] telling him face to face— that he didn’t agree with the decision. Graham, who many regard as an expert on military law, is one of a few Republicans who has been open to the idea of closing Gitmo and has met with Obama several times to help figure out a way forward.

Concerned lawmakers will have some time to vent their frustrations over the matter: The administration is required to give Congress 45 days’ notice before any transfers occur.