Fox News host presses Graham on remark about ‘holy hell’ if Trump fired Sessions

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOvernight Defense: Trump unveils new missile defense plan | Dems express alarm | Shutdown hits Day 27 | Trump cancels Pelosi foreign trip | Senators offer bill to prevent NATO withdrawal McConnell blocks bill to reopen most of government On The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction MORE (R-S.C.) was pressed Thursday night by a Fox News reporter over his 2017 remarks that there would be "hell to pay" if President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump directed Cohen to lie to Congress about plans to build Trump Tower in Moscow during 2016 campaign: report DC train system losing 0k per day during government shutdown Senate Republicans eye rules change to speed Trump nominees MORE fired Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOvernight Health Care: Thousands more migrant children may have been separated | Senate rejects bill to permanently ban federal funds for abortion | Women's March to lobby for 'Medicare for All' Acting AG Whitaker's wife defends him in lengthy email to journalist Watchdog: Thousands more migrant children separated from parents than previously known MORE.

In an interview on "The Story," host Martha MacCallum asked Graham about the comments now that Trump has fired Sessions.

After MacCallum played the clip, Graham laughed and asked when he made the comments.

“So, when was that?” Graham asked. “What year?”

"July of 2017," she answered. "Things have changed."

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Pausing for a moment, Graham said that Trump deserved an attorney general with whom he has "confidence" and said that the relationship between Trump and Sessions had been deteriorating for months.

“What I’ve been saying for months is every president deserves an attorney general they have confidence in and they can work with,” Graham said. “I like Jeff Sessions. I’ve known Jeff for a long time. I hope he goes and runs for his old Senate seat in Alabama. It’s clear to me it’s not working, was not working between Attorney General Sessions and President Trump.”

Graham went on to say that the Senate would continue to protect the special counsel, Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE, from undue interference from the White House as he continues his investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Sessions recused himself from Russian matters, and Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay Rosenstein5 myths about William Barr William Barr's only 'flaw' is that he was nominated by Trump The Hill's Morning Report — Shutdown fallout — economic distress MORE appointed Mueller after Trump fired former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Day 27 of the shutdown | Cohen reportedly paid company to rig online polls, boost his own image | Atlantic publishes ‘Impeach Donald Trump’ cover story Trump lashes out at Schumer: So funny to watch him 'groveling' 5 myths about William Barr MORE.

After firing Sessions, Trump named Matthew Whittaker, who has criticized the Mueller probe repeatedly, as acting attorney general. Whittaker now oversees the probe, and not Rosenstein.

Democrats have called on Whittaker, who was Sessions's chief of staff, to recuse himself from the Russian probe, something the Justice Department has indicated will not happen.

But Graham, who has grown into an increasingly close ally to the president over the past two years, downplayed any suggestion that the changes at Justice will limit or end the Mueller investigation.

“The bottom line is this is hysteria more than anything else,” Graham said. “I am here to tell you and everyone else that Mr. Mueller will be allowed to do his job, and hopefully that investigation will come to a conclusion here pretty soon.”