Graham: Trashing Trump is not the way to honor McCain

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamWhy do Americans worry about North Korea? Senate confirms Ratcliffe to be Trump's spy chief Abrams announces endorsements in 7 Senate races MORE (R-S.C.) is defending his response to President TrumpDonald John TrumpMulvaney: 'We've overreacted a little bit' to coronavirus Former CBS News president: Most major cable news outlets 'unrelentingly liberal' in 'fear and loathing' of Trump An old man like me should be made more vulnerable to death by COVID-19 MORE's criticism of his friend, the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe 10 Senate seats most likely to flip What does Joe Biden believe about NASA, space exploration and commercial space? The Memo: Activists press Biden on VP choice MORE (R-Ariz), saying he does not believe the only way to honor McCain is to distance himself from Trump.

"I’m not into this idea the only way you can help honor John McCain is to trash out Trump," he said in an interview with CNN that aired Wednesday. 

He added that his agenda is to both honor McCain and help Trump. 

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“My agenda is twofold, to honor my friend for the rest of my life in every way I can and help this president be successful," he said.

“President Trump has been good to me,” Graham added. “He’s allowed me in his world, he’s made decisions I think based on some input I’ve given him.” 

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Trump last week doubled down on previous criticism of McCain, who died of brain cancer last year. He told reporters he was "never a fan of John McCain" and that he "never will be." He also said the McCains failed to properly acknowledge Trump's role in the late senator's state funeral.

Graham, a staunch Trump ally, has taken criticism for not speaking forcefully against Trump's critique. 

“Lindsey Graham spent years as the sidekick to John McCain,” Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesTara Reade's attorney asks Biden to authorize search of his Senate papers Tara Reade represented by well-known lawyer, Trump campaign donor Pelosi seeks to wrangle caucus behind next COVID-19 bill MORE (D-N.Y.) said at a press conference on Tuesday. “And then Donald Trump gets elected, and Donald Trump continues to bash John McCain in reprehensible ways, and Lindsey Graham, on the issue, is in the witness protection program.”

Graham has said he had a private conversation with Trump about McCain, and told CNN's Kate Bolduan, "I could give a damn what he thinks about me and John McCain."