Stop asking if Lindsey Graham is being bribed. Start asking if he’s being blackmailed.

In the past weeks we’ve all watched as formerly reasonable Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has begun speaking and acting wildly out of character in a ham-fisted attempt at protecting Donald Trump and Russia. It’s been so suspicious that it’s led the public to begin asking who got to him and how. Some are focusing on a donation he took from a Kremlin oligarch – but it can’t just be that.

Everyone from the Democratic Coalition to Palmer Report to the Dallas Morning News) has documented that Graham took an $800,000 donation from a Kremlin oligarch during the 2016 election cycle. This money was technically legal because the oligarch has dual U.S. citizenship. So it’s not as if Graham is in trouble for having taken this money. For that matter, it’s far too little money to have motivated him to take the buffoonish, evil and illegal steps that he’s now taking to protect Trump and Russia. $800,000 sounds like real money to you and me. But Graham could have raised that kind of money during a single fundraiser hosted by the right GOP mega-donor.

We need to start asking why Graham took this money. Again, it was fully legal. But during that same 2016 election cycle, someone hacked and stole Graham’s emails. We know this because he told CNN about it. When hackers steal a politician’s emails, it’s for one of two reasons: to release them in order to damage that person, or to hold them as potential blackmail material. Based on everything we now know about the 2016 election cycle, it was likely the Russians who stole Graham’s emails. Now, after he’s spent the past year trashing Trump and demanding that the Russia plot be exposed, suddenly Graham is cartoonishly acting as the captain of Team Trump and Team Russia.

So let’s stop asking if Lindsey Graham is being bribed, simply because he legally took a relatively small (by his standards) donation from a Kremlin oligarch. Let’s start asking if this donation was tied to the fact that Graham’s emails were stolen in that same timeframe. Let’s demand that Graham release his hacked emails to the public, so we can all see whether or not he’s being blackmailed. Graham has never been a mustache-twirling villain until now – which is why it’s so shocking that he’s suddenly acting like this, and why it’s so vital that we find out why. The answers may help unravel the entire Trump-Russia treason plot.

Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report