Mulvaney pushes back on Graham criticism: ‘He’s not as good a politician as Donald Trump or else he'd be president’

Acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyOn The Money: Trump teases 'major announcement' Saturday on shutdown | Fight with Dems intensifies | Pelosi accuses Trump of leaking trip to Afghanistan | Mnuchin refuses to testify on shutdown impacts The Hill's Morning Report — Shutdown fallout — economic distress On The Money: Shutdown Day 26 | Pelosi calls on Trump to delay State of the Union | Cites 'security concerns' | DHS chief says they can handle security | Waters lays out agenda | Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions MORE in an interview broadcast Sunday downplayed the significance of pressure from President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump claims media 'smeared' students involved in encounter with Native American man Al Sharpton criticizes Trump’s ‘secret’ visit to MLK monument Gillibrand cites spirituality in 2020 fight against Trump’s ‘dark’ values MORE's more conservative supporters to follow through on a pledge to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.  

"Meet the Press" anchor Chuck Todd questioned Mulvaney over why Trump can't compromise on the wall in the face of criticism over any deal from conservative media personalities like Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter, and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham angers Dems by digging into Clinton, Obama controversies Barr’s first task as AG: Look at former FBI leaders’ conduct Debate builds over making Mueller report public MORE (R-S.C.).

"I would make the argument that the president has probably more sway over Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter than vice versa," Mulvaney said.

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"And you know that I like Lindsey Graham and he's a good friend of mine," he added. "We're from South Carolina. He’s not as good a politician as Donald Trump or else he'd be president. They both ran and one of them won and one of them lost."

Graham said last week that Trump could not afford to cave on his fight for a border wall, warning that if he gave in, "that's the end of 2019 in terms of him being an effective president."

Mulvaney insisted on Sunday that Trump is "interested in resolving" the partial government shutdown, which has lasted 16 days and counting. The impasse has been spurred by Trump's demand for $5 billion in funding for his proposed border wall, while Democrats have refused to offer any money for the structure.

Mulvaney, Vice President Pence and other White House aides met with congressional leaders' staff on Saturday, and are expected to do so again on Sunday.

Trump has offered shifting messages on the wall as the shutdown drags on, claiming at various times that Congress must fund the wall, that the structure is already largely built and that Mexico will pay for it over time. The wall, however, has not been built and Mexico has said it will not fund the project.