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Graham: Biggest problem is Trump ‘believes meddling equals collusion’

Graham: Biggest problem is Trump ‘believes meddling equals collusion’
© Greg Nash

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Memo: Saudi storm darkens for Trump Trump changes tone on Saudi Arabia amid mounting pressure Trump rebukes Saudis, but also gives them more time MORE (R-S.C.) asserted this week that President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Guardian slams Trump over comments about assault on reporter Five takeaways from the first North Dakota Senate debate Watchdog org: Tillerson used million in taxpayer funds to fly throughout US MORE is unable to distinguish between arguments that Russia interfered in the election and accusations that his campaign was in contact with Russia's government.

Graham told The Washington Post for a story published Saturday that Trump's inability to distinguish between the two assertions is based on his concerns that any acknowledgement of Russia's role in the 2016 election undercut his legitimacy as president.

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“The biggest problem is that he believes meddling equals collusion,” Graham said. “Nobody else believes that. I think he’s very sensitive about going there because he thinks it undercuts his legitimacy.” 

Trump faced sharp criticism from members of his own party, including Graham's top ally in the Senate, Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMcConnell: GOP could try to repeal ObamaCare again after midterms Comey donates maximum amount to Democratic challenger in Virginia House race Live coverage: McSally clashes with Sinema in Arizona Senate debate MORE (R-Ariz.), after he appeared to side with Russian President Vladimir Putin against the assessment of his own intelligence agencies on the scope of Russia interference in 2016.

McCain and other lawmakers sternly rebuked Trump over the remarks, with the Arizona senator calling Trump's performance "disgraceful."

“President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin,” McCain said in a statement.

“He and Putin seemed to be speaking from the same script as the president made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press, and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world,” he added.

Graham has previously chided Trump over his apparent hesitance to criticize the Russian leader, urging him to more strongly confront Russia over election interference.

“The problem is that Russia is running wild, whatever we are doing is not working and the president for some reason has a hard time pushing back against Putin,” Graham told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace in April.