As outrage mounts over Donald Trump’s comments about a federal judge’s Mexican ancestry, Sen. Lindsey Graham is warning that the controversy may be Republicans’ last chance to get off the Trump train.
“I think it's very un-American for a political leader to do this […] to question whether or not a person can be a judge based on their heritage,” the South Carolina Republican said on CNN on Tuesday.
You may not think it's un-American, I do. You may not think it's racist, I do.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Graham said that while he does not think Trump is a racist person, he does “play the race card.”
“He’s trying to ruin this man's life,” he said. “And I’ll have no part of that.”
Last week, Trump accused U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over the lawsuit against Trump University, of being biased because of his Mexican heritage. The presumptive Republican nominee said that Curiel, who was born in Indiana to Mexican parents, is a “hater of Donald Trump” because of his campaign promise to build a wall on the southern border
His comments have come under fire from all sides. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who formally endorsed Trump last week, said it was “the textbook definition of a racist comment” and “absolutely unacceptable.”
Lindsey’s lost any credibility he’s had.
Chris Christie, New Jersey Governor
This comes a day after Graham warned that this may be the last chance Republicans have to un-endorse the party’s nominee.
“If anybody was looking for an off-ramp, this is probably it,” Graham told the New York Times on Monday. “There’ll come a time when the love of country will trump hatred of Hillary.”
One of Trump’s most high-profile backers, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, immediately hit back.
“Lindsey Graham has changed his mind about who he’s endorsing and who he’s not endorsing so many different times that it’s hard for me to keep track,” Christie said in a brief press conference after casting his vote in New Jersey’s Republican primary on Tuesday. “I think Sen. Graham has lost any credibility he may have had.”
You know, I can understand why people can't support Hillary Clinton. I can understand wanting to support the nominee of the Party. I just can't personally go there.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
After ending his own presidential bid in December, Graham endorsed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush ahead of South Carolina’s primary, and then tepidly supported Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Last month, Graham announced that while he could not vote for Trump – who he has called every name in the book – he urged Republicans to stop Hillary Clinton and retain a majority in Congress.
“Lindsey's lost any credibility he's had and he should worry about going back to South Carolina and trying to rebuild his base […] or he won't be in the United States Senate for much longer,” Christie said on Tuesday.
Graham shrugged off Christie’s comments.
“I like Chris Christie. He's been great on national security. I think he's probably auditioning to be Trump’s Vice President,” Graham told McClatchy through a spokesman.
At least one of Graham’s colleagues seems to be heeding his advice.
Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk withdrew his previously stated support of Trump on Tuesday.
“Donald Trump's latest statements, in context with past attacks on Hispanics, women and the disabled like me, make it certain that I cannot and will not support my party's nominee for president regardless of the political impact on my candidacy or the Republican Party," said Kirk, who faces a tough re-election battle.