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Lindsey Graham travels with Trump on board Air Force One for flight to Texas

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Capitol Breach Graham (copy)

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks to reporters during a news conference at the Capitol on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021, in Washington, D.C. File/Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

COLUMBIA — U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham joined President Donald Trump on board Air Force One for his flight to Texas on Tuesday, less than a week after a high-profile break with the president over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

With eight days remaining in his term, Trump was heading to Texas to tout his efforts to crack down on illegal immigration.

Graham, R-S.C., has flown on Air Force One regularly over the last few years as he developed a close alliance with Trump. But this latest trip came amid a maelstrom of controversy surrounding Trump's role inciting a violent mob to storm the U.S. Capitol last week.

In brief comments to reporters as he departed, Trump took no responsibility for the rampage, despite his comments encouraging supporters to march on the Capitol and praise for them while they were still carrying out the assault.

"People thought that what I said was totally appropriate," Trump said.

Graham offered a conflicting view the day after Trump's rally-turned-riot, saying the president "needs to understand that his actions were the problem, not the solution."

During the Senate debate over objecting to election results, Graham ripped GOP efforts to claim the election was stolen and said President-elect Joe Biden legitimately won.

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"All I can say is count me out," Graham said at the time. "Enough is enough. I’ve tried to be helpful."

But Graham also pushed back on Democratic efforts to impeach Trump for a second time, saying removing Trump from office days before the end of his term would "do more harm than good."

A group of Trump supporters accosted Graham at an airport in Washington, D.C., on Friday, yelling at him for declining to support Trump in his efforts to overturn the presidential election results in several critical states.

The Washington Post later reported that Graham had spent several hours at the White House shortly before that incident encouraging Trump to participate in events this week that highlight his policy agenda.

A Graham spokesman declined to comment further on Graham's Tuesday trip with the president.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow Jamie Lovegrove on Twitter @jslovegrove.

Jamie Lovegrove is a political reporter covering the South Carolina Statehouse, congressional delegation and campaigns. He previously covered Texas politics in Washington for The Dallas Morning News and in Austin for the Texas Tribune.

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