“It bothers me greatly when the president says things about John McCain. It pisses me off to no end, and I let the president know it,” Graham said in an interview with John Dickerson on “CBS This Morning” on Thursday.
“The way [Trump’s] handled the passing of John is just, was disturbing. We finally got it right. … I am not going to give up on the idea of working with this president. The best way I can honor John McCain is help my country.”
McCain, a former Republican presidential nominee and decorated veteran of the Vietnam War, was 81 when he died Saturday. He was diagnosed with brain cancer in July 2017 after a routine physical revealed a blood clot over his left eye. His family announced he was discontinuing his cancer treatment just days before his death.
Graham and McCain had been close friends in the Senate.
Trump and McCain, however, have had contentious interactions since the 2016 presidential campaign. Many people criticized Trump’s tweet about McCain’s death, saying it was delayed, simplistic and neglected to mention any of McCain’s achievements for the country.
Trump also drew criticism for not calling for flags to be lowered to half-staff and kept there until McCain’s burial. The White House initially returned its flag to full-staff on Monday, following the minimum protocol for the death of a sitting member of Congress, though a presidential proclamation for keeping flags at half-staff longer is typically issued when a high-profile figure dies.
On that front, Graham told Dickerson that he “called some people around” Trump to right the wrong and get the flag lowered again.
On Monday afternoon, Trump issued a proclamation to keep flags at half-staff until McCain’s Sunday burial, and the White House flag was lowered again.
Additionally, Graham said he told Trump that he could learn a thing or two from McCain.
“John McCain was a big man, worthy of a big country. Mr. President, you need to be the big man that the presidency requires,” Graham said he told him.