Despite describing New York businessman Donald Trump an “unreliable” conservative unworthy of his support and adding he would not attend the GOP convention in July over a possible Trump nomination, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham privately advised attendees at a Florida GOP fundraiser to back the real estate mogul in the November election.
Senator Graham has been an outspoken critic of the presumptive GOP nominee.
Attendees at the May 21 GOP event were told by Graham to support Mr. Trump.
“He did say that we need to get behind him,” said one Florida Republican, Teresa Dailey, who spoke to CNN.
Graham spokesman Kevin Bishop declined to elaborate on Graham’s remarks, but did emphasize the South Carolina senator’s position on Trump remained the same and that Mr. Graham does not back efforts by some conservatives to mobilize a third-party bid.
Graham, who ended his long-shot bid for the White House in late December 2015, endorsed former GOP candidate Jeb Bush shortly after dropping out of the race and has spent the last six months warning against the candidacies both Mr. Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
Graham offered an endorsement for Cruz just prior to the Texas senator ending his bid on May 3.
Graham has scaled back his criticism of Trump in recent weeks, phoning Trump to discuss national security issues in mid-May. Describing the phone call as “cordial,” Graham said he appreciated Trump for outlining a vision for a Trump presidency, but reiterated he would not support the New York businessman in the election.
“We talked about national security, and told some jokes. He’s very cordial, he’s a funny guy, and he’s from New York. He can take a punch,” Graham said of the phone conversation.
[The Hill] [Mediaite] [postandcourier.com]