Lindsey Graham praises Donald Trump's 'magic', calls ex-POTUS mix of Jesse Helms, Ronald Reagan and PT Barnum

The South Carolina senator told Axios in an interview that Trump can either make the Republican Party bigger or destroy it


                            Lindsey Graham praises Donald Trump's 'magic', calls ex-POTUS mix of Jesse Helms, Ronald Reagan and PT Barnum
Lindsey Graham clarifies his relationship with ex-President Donald Trump, says he still considers him a friend (Getty Images)
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South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the prominent pro-Donald Trump voices in the Republican Party, has come out in support of the former President yet again. On Monday, March 8, Graham said in an interview with Axios that while Trump has a “dark side”, he tries to “harness the magic” because he succeeded where GOP candidates like John McCain and Mitt Romney failed. He also compared Trump with the likes of former senator Jesse Helms, former President Ronald Reagan and former Bridgeport mayor and famous showman PT Barnum. 

Graham has at times criticized Trump but his support for the former President has overshadowed the criticism. He has backed the mercurial businessman-politician even after the latter targeted late senator John McCain, the former’s longtime friend, and allegedly provoked his supporters to carry out the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6. Graham opposed the impeachment move against Trump and even criticized fellow senator Mitch McConnell and even called Trump the GOP’s “most important figure”

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Speaking with 'Axios on HBO' host Jonathan Swan, Graham, 65, said, “What I'm tryin’ to do is just harness the magic. To me, Donald Trump is sort of a cross between Jesse Helms, Ronald Reagan and PT Barnum.” Graham added, “He could make the Republican Party something that nobody else I know can make it. He can make it bigger. He can make it stronger. He can make it more diverse. And he also could destroy it.”

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Pro-Trump supporters storm the US Capitol following a rally with ex-President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021, in Washington DC (Getty Images)

 

It is not that Graham has always been a Trump sympathizer. The former chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who won his fourth term last November even as the GOP lost control of the chamber, questioned Trump’s mental fitness in 2016 — the year he too ran for the president but gave up the race early. Graham endorsed Jeb Bush, another Trump critic in the GOP primary race, but after the tycoon defeated Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, he embraced him. Graham also expressed his disappointment over the Capitol insurgency, saying “enough is enough” but a week after saying he was “out” with the former president, flew with Trump to Texas aboard  Air Force One. 

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'Trump was my friend before the riot, I still consider him a friend'

Explaining his not-so-clear relation with Trump, Graham told Swan, “Donald Trump was my friend before the riot. And I'm trying to keep a relationship with him after the riot. I still consider him a friend. What happened was a dark day in American history, and we're going to move forward.”

“I want us to continue the policies that I think will make America strong. I believe the best way for the Republican Party to do that is with Trump, not without Trump. Mitt Romney didn’t do it. John McCain didn’t do it. There’s something about Trump. There’s a dark side and there’s some magic there.”

When Swan said Trump is still in no mood to concede defeat in last year’s presidential election and argued that he won in a landslide, Graham responded by saying, “I tell (Trump) every day that he wants to listen that I think the main reason he probably lost in Arizona is beatin' on the dead guy called John McCain.”
 
Graham also said that he could go after Trump if he wanted to. “My election’s over. I could throw him over tomorrow,” he said. On January 6, the senator gave a speech in which he said, “Trump and I, we’ve had a hell of a journey. I hate it to end this way. Oh my God, I hate it. From my point of view, he’s been a consequential president, but today, first thing you’ll see. All I can say is a count me out. Enough is enough.”

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