In an interview with Axios' Jonathan Swan for "Axios on HBO," Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham called President Trump an "equal opportunity abuser" and said that he's trying to help the president be successful.
The big picture: Graham and Trump have a complicated relationship. Graham openly admitting to voting for another candidate in 2016, but Graham has actively worked with the president to advance his legislative priorities, and has been one of Trump's top defenders against impeachment in the Senate.
- But Graham still doesn't always shy away from critiquing the president, just recently condemning Trump's withdrawal of troops from northern Syria.
What they're saying: Confronted about his relationship with the president, Graham said he is trying to be "reflective" about the reason Americans elected Trump.
- "There are a lot of working class folks who felt like Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, and Lindsey Graham did not give a damn about them."
- "I mean, she was secretary of state, first lady, United States senator. She lost to Donald Trump. I lost to Donald Trump. Jeb Bush lost to Donald Trump."
- "Maybe we should be a little bit reflective. I've chosen to be reflective. I've chosen to try to find out how to make Trump successful but not at all cost."
Graham also went back and forth on his previous remarks calling Trump a "bigot," insisting that he was speaking on Trump's campaign as a whole and not Trump individually.
- "I've come to believe that my job is put America ahead of me. People in South Carolina like Trump. They want me to work with him. I represent them. I owe it to them to try. I owe it to him to try," Graham said.
- "The American people said he wasn't a bigot. I don't think they woulda elected one," Graham said, adding that he doesn't personally believe Trump to be a bigot.
The bottom line: Asked if he's sincerely changed his beliefs on Trump's character, Graham said yes, stating: "I've got to know him. And I find him to be a handful... But at the end of the day, he can be very charming and be very gracious. And I'm judging him by his conduct."