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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.

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."

Go deeper: Graham broke South Carolina's fundraising record in Q3, campaign says

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

NRA declares bankruptcy, says it will reincorporate in Texas

Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association (NRA) speaks during CPAC in 2016. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The National Rifle Association said Friday it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will seek to reincorporate in Texas, calling New York, where it is currently registered, a "toxic political environment."

The big picture: The move comes just months after New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit to dissolve the NRA, alleging the group committed fraud by diverting roughly $64 million in charitable donations over three years to support reckless spending by its executives.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden: "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution

Joe Biden. Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden promised to invoke the Defense Production Act to increase vaccine manufacturing, as he outlined a five-point plan to administer 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in the first months of his presidency.

Why it matters: With the Center for Disease Control and Prevention warning of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus, Biden is trying to establish how he’ll approach the pandemic differently than President Trump.