Lankford said in a Senate floor speech that a “popular commentator” told him four weeks ago that he would face negative consequences if he pushed forward with drafting a bipartisan immigration bill.
“If you try to move a bill that solves the border crisis during this presidential year, I will do whatever I can to destroy you, because I do not want you to solve this during the presidential election,” Lankford said he was told.
The Oklahoma Republican spent months drafting a compromise immigration bill with Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.). The resulting legislation, unveiled Sunday, would limit asylum and parole while making it easier for authorities to deport migrants, including a requirement that the Department of Homeland Security deny all entries when daily border crossings reach certain thresholds.
The bill includes no pathways to citizenship for any undocumented immigrants, something Democrats usually push for in bipartisan immigration deals. Instead, Democrats asked for military assistance for Ukraine.
However, the deal blew up in Lankford’s face thanks to opposition from former president Donald Trump, who urged Republican senators to kill the legislation, as well as a lot of conservative commentators ― including the unnamed but presumably prominent right-wing media personality that allegedly threatened Lankford.
“By the way, they have been faithful to their promise and have done everything they can to destroy me in the past several weeks,” Lankford said in his floor remarks.
Lankford declined to name the commentator when HuffPost asked.
The package failed in a Senate vote on Wednesday afternoon, thanks mostly to Republican opposition.
A variety of prominent Republicans inside and outside Congress have falsely claimed the Lankford bill provides “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants. Lankford said he’s repeatedly told people that’s not true, but that it’s been hard to break through.
“For some reason, we still believe everything we read on the internet,” Lankford said.
Igor Bobic contributed reporting.