Sen. Lindsey Graham, a critic-turned-ally of President Donald Trump's, unloaded Friday on The New York Times anonymous op-ed describing a resistance within the Trump administration, calling it "unnerving" and claiming that it was part of an effort to change the subject away from the Russia probe.
"I think what's happening here is a new line of attack," the South Carolina Republican said of the motives of the op-ed. "That's the best evidence yet that there's no collusion. This to me is a signal that there's nothing there with Russia in terms of the President."
Graham claimed that the op-ed was part of a secretive effort to shift the focus away from the Russia probe since, he said, there was no apparent evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. And he believed that it was part of a "new narrative" to claim the President is "crazy."
Graham himself called then-candidate Trump "crazy" and "a kook" when the two were campaign trail rivals in February 2016.
Graham offered no evidence to support his new theory. But his remarks signal the latest effort by Republicans to turn the page away from the damaging op-ed and focus on matters that unite their party.
The senator, who frequently golfs with Trump, indicted that he'd spoken a few times with him since the op-ed came out.
"He's pissed off," Graham said. "He feels betrayed, and I don't blame him." He said that he impressed upon the President the importance of touting his accomplishments to the country, like the nomination of Brett Kavanuagh to the Supreme Court and the economy.
However, Graham admitted that there are "actual concerns" in the White House about Trump.
"Absolutely," he told CNN. "I think he can be a handful, but I think this op-ed piece was done for a purpose, for a reason and you may not agree with me, but it's to start a new narrative. The new narrative is, 'Well, he didn't collude with the Russians but he's crazy.'"
"He's not the first president where his staff would intercede and say, 'Let's think about this,'" Graham added.
Graham questioned the New York Times' judgement for posting the piece, which was penned anonymously, calling the newspaper the "choir-director of the left."
"I find this op-ed piece unnerving. Where does this end? Put the shoe on the other foot. What if the Washington Times ran an op-ed piece on President Obama where some anonymous source said a, b, or c, I just don't like this whole construct. I don't think it's healthy for our country, I don't think it's good for journalism and I'm going to push back. Here's what I think it is. I think it is an effort to create a new narrative," he said.