McCain: Trump 'fired up the crazies'

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainOvernight Defense: GOP lawmaker takes unannounced trip to Syria | Taliban leader pens New York Times op-ed on peace talks | Cheney blasts paper for publishing op-ed GOP lawmaker makes unannounced trip to northeastern Syria Meghan McCain after Gaetz says Trump should pardon Roger Stone: 'Oh come on' MORE (R-Ariz.) is blasting GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump's rhetoric on illegal immigration, and worries it has energized the party's fringe.

"It’s very bad,” McCain told the The New Yorker in an interview published Thursday.

“This performance with our friend out in Phoenix is very hurtful,” he said of Trump’s rally against illegal immigration in his state over the weekend.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Because what he did was he fired up the crazies,” McCain continued. “Now he galvanized them. He’s really got them activated.”

McCain spoke to The New Yorker on Monday, two days after the real estate mogul spoke at a rally on July 11 that reportedly drew thousands in Phoenix.

The Arizona senator, though, said those in attendance reflect only a small segment of Republicans.

“We have a very extreme element in our Republican Party,” he said, noting that Arizona Republicans censured him in January 2014 for his stance on immigration.

“We’ll see how this plays out, but there is some anger in my state,” McCain added. “People who otherwise might be more centrist are angry about this border situation."

McCain also said in the interview that Trump’s momentum would halt once conservative voters learned more about him.

“He was a big Democratic supporter,” McCain said of Trump. “Some of this stuff is going to come out: he gave more money to Democrats than Republicans; he had Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden faces do-or-die primary in South Carolina President Trump's assault on checks and balances: Five acts in four weeks Schiff blasts Trump for making 'false claims' about Russia intel: 'You've betrayed America. Again' MORE at his wedding.”

“You know, he’s attacking Hillary Clinton after she was in the front row of his — I don’t know which wedding it was,” McCain quipped of Trump and Clinton, the Democratic front-runner.

McCain was part of the Gang of Eight that drafted a comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed in the Senate but was never taken up by the GOP-controlled House in 2013.

He praised Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThis week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime Congress set for clash over surveillance reforms Five things to know about emerging US, Taliban peace deal MORE (S.C.), another GOP White House hopeful and part of the Gang of Eight, for not abandoning their work on immigration after the conservative backlash over the bill.

“Lindsey said this is a moral test for our party,” McCain. “He put on a very strong performance. Lindsey never backed away from it.”

McCain noted that Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSanders: 'Unfair to simply say everything is bad' in Cuba under Castro Democrats: It's Trump's world, and we're just living in it Cheese, wine importers reeling from Trump trade fight MORE (Fla.), another Republican 2016 contender, has edged away from comprehensive reform.

“Rubio backed away from it,” he said.