Graham, who called Trump a 'nut job,' softens his view

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican senator who called Donald Trump a "nut job" and a "loser as a person" softened his stance on Thursday as the GOP sought to set aside their differences and unify the party.

Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of Trump's harshest critics, told reporters that he spoke with Trump by telephone Wednesday, a 15-minute conversation in which they discussed national security, the threat of Islamic State militants and last year's international nuclear deal with Iran.

Graham described the billionaire candidate as funny, cordial and said he asked insightful questions.

"He's got a great sense of humor," Graham said. "He's from New York. He obviously can take a punch."

Graham, who waged an unsuccessful bid for his party's White House nomination, said he doesn't retract anything he said during the heat of the campaign and he still won't endorse Trump. But Trump won the Republican nomination for president, he said, so the "insults will stop with me."

He said that it's a good sign that Trump reached out to him. The call was arranged by a mutual friend who said Trump wanted to speak with Graham.

Graham said earlier this year that his party would sink like the Titanic if it backed Trump.

In a statement Thursday, Graham said he will do what he can in the Senate to help the next president because "the next president will inherit a mess."