When President Donald Trump first entered the Oval Office two years ago, Sen. Lindsey Graham was a little reticent to give him his phone number.
“President Trump and I did not start well,” the South Carolina Republican said in remarks Thursday to hundreds of conservative activists. “But now I’ve given him my phone number.”
Trump famously gave out Graham’s old cellphone number to the world when both men were seeking the Republican nomination for president.
“We’ve got a lot in common. I like him, and he likes him,” Graham quipped, provoking laughter.
Graham, now chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told his audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference that he was “never more proud of Trump” than during the ultimately successful effort to win Senate confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
Graham attracted the admiration of skeptical conservatives in September, when he made an impassioned defense of Kavanaugh as fellow Judiciary Committee members weighed a newly surfaced accusation that the nominee sexually assaulted a teenage girl when they were in high school.
“I want to thank the president for nominating Brett,” Graham said at CPAC. “He did something not everyone does. He had somebody’s back when it really mattered. There were a bunch of people saying we need to move on, and the president said, ‘No, thank you.’ That’s truly called draining the swamp.”
Graham asked the CPAC audience to imagine what would have happened if Democrats had been able to block Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Qualified prospective nominees would be reluctant to step forward if the tactics employed against Kavanaugh had prevailed, he said.
Graham also made it clear that he would work with Republican colleagues on the Judiciary Committee to confirm more conservative judges.
Throughout his talk, Graham also credited Trump on a range of topics:
“Why is Rocket Man talking to Trump? Because he knows he means business.”
“Why is the Taliban at the peace table? Because we are kicking their a–.”
“Why is the caliphate destroyed? Because Trump is letting the military do its job.”
“Why is Iran on the run? Because Trump recognizes a bad deal.”
“Why is Kavanaugh on the court? Because Trump is tough.”
CPAC, the largest annual national gathering of conservative activists, runs through Saturday at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, just outside Washington.