Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMcCain rips Trump for attacks on press NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Meghan McCain says her father regrets opposition to MLK Day MORE (R-Ariz.) told The New Yorker he would support Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulNSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Fix what we’ve got and make Medicare right this year Despite amnesty, DACA bill favors American wage-earners MORE (R-Ky.) for president if Paul is the Republican nominee. 

“I’ve seen him grow, and I’ve seen him mature, and I’ve seen him become more centrist," McCain told The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza, who wrote a long profile of Paul.

"I know that, if he were president or a nominee, I could influence him, particularly some of his views and positions on national security. He trusts me particularly on the military side of things, so I could easily work with him. It wouldn’t be a problem.” 

Paul and McCain have had a testy relationship at times. McCain once referred to Paul and Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWith religious liberty memo, Trump made America free to be faithful again Interstate compacts aren't the right way to fix occupational licensing laws Texas Dem: ‘I don’t know what to believe’ about what Trump wants for wall MORE (R-Texas) as "wacko birds" because of their differences over foreign policy. 

And in the New Yorker profile, the veteran senator says he was unhappy when Paul accused him of meeting with ISIS members, a claim that has been widely debunked.

“It is disappointing that he would pick up and legitimatize what was clearly information that was being pushed by people who are enemies of the United States.” McCain said of Paul.

The Arizona Republican criticized Paul's views on ISIS, even though Paul supports airstrikes against the group. “He said we have to destroy ISIS, and yet he has not described a strategy in order to achieve that goal," McCain said.

Separately, the profile reveals that Paul has talked with President Obama about a proposal to end the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine. “I talked to him last week and said, ‘I will help in any way I can,' " Paul said.

Paul has made reducing what he views as overly harsh criminal justice provisions a centerpiece of his views and has reached out to African-American groups about the issues. 

New York Times story in January, though, linked Paul to an institute that raised money with the help of his father, Ron Paul. The story reports that scholars from the institute have "championed the Confederacy."

Rand Paul told The New Yorker that he was "really disappointed" in this article. 

There was a quote “from some guy who I’ve never met saying something about how slaves should have been happy singing and dancing because they got good food or something. Like, O.K., so now I’m in the New York Times and you’re associating me with some person who I don’t know.”

 “It’s one thing to go back and interview my college professor or groups that I actually was with," he continued. "But I was never associated with any of these people. Ever. Only through being related to my dad, who had association with them.”