U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham: 'I hope President Trump runs again'

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Mackinac Island — U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told a crowd of Michigan Republicans on Saturday night that he hopes former President Donald Trump runs again in 2024.

The GOP senator's remark came on the second day of the Michigan Republican Party's leadership conference on Mackinac Island and three days after Trump sent out a statement criticizing Graham. His comment on Trump running again drew applause from the crowd of GOP insiders and activists.

"I don't think Trump is listening. He might be," Graham said. "I hope President Trump runs again."

In this Sept. 30 photo, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., appears before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington,  to examine the FBI "Crossfire Hurricane" investigation.

Graham maintained a close relationship with Trump during his term in office. However, the former president ripped Graham on Wednesday after The Washington Post reported revelations in a new book that he and U.S. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah were "unpersuaded" by Trump's claims of widespread fraud rigging the results of the 2020 election.

The new book is "Peril," written by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. Lee and Graham were not among the senators who formally objected to battleground states' results in the Senate in January.

"Mike Lee, Lindsey Graham and all of the other Republicans who were unwilling to fight for the presidency of the United States, which would have included at least an additional four Republican Senators, two in Georgia, one in Michigan, one in Arizona, are letting the Democrats get away with the greatest election hoax in history — a total con job," Trump said.

In Michigan, Trump and Republican U.S. Senate candidate John James both lost, and a series of audits, court rulings and an investigation by the GOP-controlled state Senate have upheld the outcome.

Trump lost Michigan by 154,000 votes or 3 percentage points. James lost to U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, by 92,000 votes or 2 percentage points.

Graham didn't specifically respond to Trump's recent slam against him during his 25-minute speech, which was full of jokes and criticisms of current President Joe Biden, a Democrat.

But Graham made mostly positive comments about Trump.

"People ask me, ‘What happened with you and Trump?'" Graham told the crowd. "I say we found common ground. I’ve come to like him and he likes him.”

"That gets us through 18 holes," he added referring to their time playing golf together. "The first nine, I'll tell him why I like him. The back nine is why he likes him."

Trump can be "a handful" but is one of the most consequential presidents in American history, Graham added.

"Now I believe there's magic there," he said. "(He's) got to turn it down a notch. But there's magic there."

Graham credited Trump with bringing "order" to the southern border, cutting taxes and appointing conservative judges. The development of the COVID-19 vaccine was "the most significant medical accomplishment, maybe in the history of the country," the senator said.

He said 92% of the people in the hospital with the virus have not been fully vaccinated.

"You decide if you want to take the vaccine. I took it," Graham told the crowd. "President Trump, thank you for making it available to the world. You saved a lot of lives."