Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) said Wednesday that President Donald Trump called to salute him for his tribute on the Senate floor to John McCain following the death of his longtime friend.
Trump and McCain had an infamously frosty relationship in life, and Trump took criticism for an initially ambivalent reaction to the senator's death. After public and private pressure, Trump issued a statement Monday offering his "respect" for McCain's service to the country.
Graham revealed in a CNN interview that Trump phoned him after he made an emotional speech on the Senate floor Tuesday urging Americans to "be more like John McCain."
"When he [Trump] says something bad about John, it pisses me off," Graham said on CNN. "He called yesterday after my speech, and he couldn't have been nicer. He said, ‘That was very sad. I just want to let you know that you did right by your friend.' I said, ‘Thank you, Mr. President.'"
Critics have attacked Graham for his close relationship with Trump, but Graham said he disagrees with those who say the only way to honor McCain is to fight the president.
"I'm going to do what I think is best for the country, using what John taught me about the country," he said.
Graham said he wants to function as a "bridge" between the Bush and McCain worlds and the Trump world.
"It's pretty simple if you knew anything about me. I want to be relevant," he said. "I want to make sure that this president … is successful … If that makes somebody mad, I'll just live with that."
Graham said he regretted the dislike between McCain and Trump, but added "Country First," which was McCain's 2008 presidential slogan, means it is his job to help the White House where he can.
Graham has had an up-and-down relationship with Trump since both men sought the 2016 Republican nomination. The senator said Trump would be a "disaster" if nominated, but since Trump won the election, Graham has been a frequent golf partner of the president and sought to influence him on foreign policy.