Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he still has differences with President-elect Donald Trump, but is prepared to work with him and be a check on him when necessary.
“There will be areas where I don’t agree, and my job then will be to represent a coequal branch of government and speak my mind,” Graham told reporters in the Senate Tuesday.
In the wide-ranging session Tuesday afternoon, Graham – a vocal opponent of Trump’s tone and positions on immigration and foreign policy – said that he believes Trump is not an ideologue and instead will still be evolving on public policy as his presidency begins, especially since Trump has a business background and lives in a world where “the other side has to get something.”
“He has a unique opportunity here. There are deals to be made. Big, HUGE deals,” Graham said, poking at Trump’s hyperbolic rhetoric. “But there will be no huge deals in this body that doesn’t have Democrat and Republican support.”
Specifically, Graham – a sponsor of the comprehensive immigration bill in 2013 – said on immigration that he was waiting to see what Trump would do.
“I don’t know what he wants to do. I’ll tell you what I won’t do. I will not vote for a bill that treats a grandmother and a drug dealer the same. So, I will vote for border security, but here’s my view. Democrats are not going to give Republicans all the things we want on border security [and] illegal immigration increases unless they know what is going to happen to the 11 million,” Graham said.
He added he believed Trump was “evolving” on the issue including on his signature promise of the border wall, which Trump said over the weekend may not be entirely a wall, but some fence.
“He’s right about that,” Graham said.
Graham added that Trump needed to “think long and hard about” repealing DACA, an executive order that gave children who were brought to the U.S. illegally as kids legal status.
Where Graham was firmest, however, was in the arena of foreign policy. Graham said that he wouldn’t stand for any funny business on Russia.
“Clearly me and the Donald have issues. And I will do everything I can to help him because he will be commander in chief in dangerous times. I’m worried about Russia. He wants to reset Russia? Maybe he can do it. But here’s my view about Russia: they’re a bad actor in the world and need to be reined in,” Graham said. “I respect the fact that he won, but Congress does have a say and a role in all this.”
He closed with a couple of kind words for a president he has opposed at nearly every turn. “President Obama has done a damn good job at being the transition guy,” Graham said. “I just cannot thank him enough for behaving the way he has.”