Former President Donald Trump is the "captain" of the Republican "team" going into 2022, whether or not intraparty critics or detractors agree, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told Fox News on Thursday.

Graham was reacting to comments he made on "Hannity" Wednesday when he called for party unity and said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will not have his support for his caucus leadership post if he cannot work with Trump.

"I'm not going to vote for anybody that can't have a working relationship with President Trump to be a team to come up with an America first agenda to show the difference between us and liberal Democrats, prosecute the case for Trump policies," he told host Sean Hannity. 

"And I'm not going to vote for anybody for leader of the Senate as a Republican unless they can prove to me that they can advocate an American first agenda and have a working relationship with President Trump. Because if you can't do that, you will fail."

On "America Reports" Thursday, Graham further explained, telling host John Roberts that Trump is the most consequential member of the party.


WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 16:  U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) talk to reporters in the Rose Garden following a lunch meeting at the White House October 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

McConnell and Trump have shared a frosty relationship as of late, trading barbs with the former president dubbing the Kentucky lawmaker "the Broken Old Crow."

A source familiar with the conversation told Fox News that Graham called Trump ahead of his Wednesday appearance on "Hannity." But the source noted that Graham’s criticism of McConnell was not coming at the behest of the former president.

"You don't have to agree with everything President Trump does or says. I don't," Graham said Thursday. 

"But you got to have a working relationship because our party will not do as well as we could or should if we don't have a team approach from 2022 to 2024, where the House and the Senate Republicans are working with an American first agenda led by President Trump."

Graham said he expects Trump to seek a Grover Cleveland-like second non-consecutive presidential term and expressed hope the two leaders could repair their relationship.

He pointed to the federal courts, where McConnell and Trump worked together to fill a record number of vacancies left by former President Barack Obama. Those judges, Graham said, have been consequential in cases involving such measures as vaccine mandates.


Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., applaud during a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images (Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

"This idea of mandating to the entire country without Congress being on board to the private sector, the court is going to shoot down. So, you know, the court has got a lot of good conservatives on it. Thank you, President Trump. Thank you. Mitch McConnell," he said. 

"2024 will be here before you know it. But if we don't win in 2022, shame on us. They're trying to give us the election," Graham added.

"The best way to win the House in the Senate is to be a team, and if we win in 2022, we've got to stay a team and the captain of the team is Donald Trump, whether you like it or not."

Asked about Graham’s comments, a strategist aligned with McConnell’s team told Fox News that "Democrats and the liberal media will do anything to change the subject from inflation, empty grocery shelves, and Biden’s inability to manage either, but you’ll never see McConnell take their bait."

Fox News' Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.