GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham’s erratic behavior and rabid pro-Trump posturing in recent months have left many wondering what really is going on behind the scenes in Graham’s personal and political life.
One day, Graham seems to be defending Donald Trump and criticizing the Mueller probe, while the next he’s criticizing the president for his pro-Russia policy on Syria. And we all recall Graham’s 2016 tweet predicting, “If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed...and we will deserve it.”
Now, Graham is sending mixed messages over the Trump government shutdown, the longest in U.S. history.
On Sunday, Graham commented on a Trump tweet in which the president sought to blame Democrats for the ongoing shutdown—as Trump has done repeatedly in the past two weeks—despite the president’s previous admission that it is his fault.
In response, Graham tweeted, “Mr. President, you’re right to continue the fight for border security - including a Wall/barrier that Democrats have supported in the past. No Wall, No Deal. Use emergency powers as last resort.”
Graham also tweeted that, “Damage from a broken border…far exceeds the problems associated with a partial government shutdown that can and should be fixed.”
Just two days ago, Graham tweeted, “Mr. President, Declare a national emergency NOW. Build a wall NOW.” Graham has repeatedly called on Trump in recent days to declare a national emergency over the phony border wall.
During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, the Republican senator, who now chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, told host Chris Wallace, “The real damage is a broken border compared to a partial shutdown. The president’s not going to give in—no wall, no deal—but he’s ready to deal.”
Wait, Trump’s not going to give in, but he’s ready to deal? How does that work?
“Before he pulls the plug on the legislative option, and I think we’re almost there, I would urge him to open up the government for a short period of time, like three weeks, before he pulls the plug. See if we can get a deal. If we can’t at the end of three weeks, all bets are off,” Graham told Wallace.
What happened to declaring a national emergency “NOW”?
“It’s the last option, not the first option,” Graham said on Sunday, adding, “But we’re pretty close to that being the only option.”
He called on Republicans to “stand behind the president if this is his last option,” adding that, “If you don’t see the crisis, you’re not looking very hard.”
So, exactly what is tugging at Graham’s reasoning here? According to him, Graham spoke with Trump on Sunday morning and the president told him, “Let’s make a deal.”
Yet, in the same interview, Graham cautioned, “I don’t want to speak for the president.”
One thing that may have worried Graham is that members of the House Freedom Caucus privately urged Trump not to declare a national emergency, fearing it would lead to a lengthy legal standoff, according to Politico. They also worry that Democrats could use the same tactic, perhaps to provide Medicare for all or to mitigate climate change.
“I do see the potential for national emergencies being used for every single thing that we face in the future where we can’t reach an agreement,” Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows told Politico.
Also, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, more than half of Americans still oppose the idea of a wall, although that number (54%) has dropped from a year ago (63%).
Regarding the shutdown, 53% said Trump and the Republicans are mainly to blame. Only 29% said Democrats are, according to the Post. (Thirteen percent said both sides are equally to blame.)
Only 24% said the border situation should be considered a crisis, as Trump and Republicans repeatedly have claimed.
A similar poll by CNN found that 56% of those surveyed oppose the wall, and 45% said the situation at the border is a crisis.
As for Trump’s approval rating, it currently stands at 37% in the CNN poll. His disapproval rating: 57%.
Watch the entire interview: