Sen. John McCain, R-Az., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., spoke at a CNN town hall Wednesday night about their congressional priorities and what they think President Donald Trump should work on in the future.
The event, held in Jack Morton Auditorium and moderated by CNN’s chief political correspondent Dana Bash, had both Republican senators speaking candidly about the direction of their party and their thoughts on the proposals and policies Trump has created.
Missed the broadcast? Here are some takeaways:
1. Immigration reform
Both senators said they are in favor of stricter immigration laws and mandating that sanctuary cities like D.C. be forced to turn over any illegal immigrants and refugees. This falls in line with a Jan. 25 executive order from Trump, declaring sanctuary cities a violation of federal law.
“We ought to look at ways that would help convince these cities to observe federal law,” McCain said.
Both senators said they are open to immigrants becoming citizens but agree that the U.S. should have a comprehensive immigration reform.
“We can secure our borders through technology and drones and towers and border patrol,” he said.
The senators were also asked about the recently overruled executive order from Trump, banning any citizen from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. McCain said he was relieved to find out that Iraq had been separated from Iran on the list of proposed banned countries.
“We have Americans fighting in Iraq against ISIS,” he said. “We need the cooperation of the Iraqi government.”
Graham added that he hopes Trump understands that in a battle over the ban that is being perceived by many as being a war on faith, the United States will lose in the end.
“We have American Muslims in uniform and every time you talk disparagingly of the faith, not only do you denigrate your fellow citizens for trying to protect you, you make it impossible to find partners within the faith,” Graham said.
Both senators said they believe Russia will continue to “play hard” and that the U.S. government should push for further FBI investigation into possible Russian interference during the 2016 election.
“If the Russians have succeeded in determining the outcome of our election, that would be a blow to democracy,” McCain said. “That’s why we’ve got to pay a hell of a lot more attention to what they’re doing.”
McCain said he refuses to rely on information published by news outlets regarding Russian interference and is instead pushing for a special committee to investigate Putin’s actions.
“He’s a thug, he’s a KGB agent, he’s a crook,” he said.
Graham added that while Trump seemingly has a “blind spot” when it comes to Russia, Republicans in office should not celebrate news of Russians interfering in and damaging former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
“And attack on one party in America is an attack on all of us,” he said, spurring a round of applause.
3. Rebuilding the military
Both senators said they support Trump’s goal to expand military power and funding in the current tense, political climate.
McCain said he hopes Trump’s rebuilding of the military will focus on providing countries like Ukraine with defensive weapons to better stand up to Russia’s superior equipment and force. He added that he warned former President Barack Obama that pulling out of foreign military support in countries like Iraq, would be “hell in a handbasket.”
“We are not doing enough to rebuild our military. All I can say is, peace through strength,” he said.
Graham also said he disapproves of Obama withdrawing troops from Iraq too soon and encourages keeping mobilized troops in the Middle East.
“It’s not a war against Islam, it’s a war against nutjobs,” he said. “The best way to be safe here is to have an insurance policy over there.”
Graham said in addition to imposing more sanctions on Russia, the United States should keep a strong, expansive military prepared.
“The last time somebody in Europe grabbed territory by force not belonging to them, it led to World War II,” Graham said. “Putin will not stop until someone makes him stop.”
While Graham said he supports military growth, he also encourages Trump to uphold diplomatic channels of solving international conflicts.
“We’re never going to win this war with military force alone,” Graham said. “The best way to serve the Republican party is put the country ahead of everything else.”