WASHINGTON — The relationship between President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions is "dysfunctional" and "beyond repair," a Republican senator said Tuesday.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told NBC's "Today" that the Justice Department needs a leader who can work with the president and that Sessions was not the only person for the job. But he said anyone picked to replace Sessions would have to commit to the Senate to allowing special counsel Robert Mueller to finish his investigation into Russian election interference and potential coordination between Russia and Trump's 2016 campaign.

"The president's lost confidence in Jeff Sessions," Graham said. "And I'm telling you what everybody on the country knows: This is a dysfunctional relationship. We need a better one. Is there somebody who's highly qualified that has the confidence of the president who'll also understand their job is to protect Mueller? Yes, I think we can find that person after the election, if that's what the president wants."

The comments represent a stark turnabout for Graham, who served with Sessions on the Senate Judiciary Committee and who said last year that there would be "holy hell to pay" if the attorney general was fired.

Graham said he was not asking for Sessions to be fired and still considered him a "fine man," but the remarks nonetheless signal willingness from a key Judiciary Committee member to consider a replacement and a break from the chorus of support Sessions had received from former Senate allies.

Trump has repeatedly lashed out at Sessions for recusing himself last year from the Russia investigation and leaving the probe in the hands of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who then appointed Mueller as special counsel. He told Fox News last week that Sessions had never had control of the Justice Department and that the only reason he had selected him was because he had been loyal on the campaign trail.

Sessions, previously a Republican senator from Alabama, responded with a rare public statement saying that he and his department "will not be improperly influenced by political considerations."