Sen. Lindsey Graham said Thursday that some of President Donald Trump's White House staff have "irrational" views on immigration.
"There are people in the White House who are outliers," the South Carolina Republican said in an exclusive interview with CNN's Dana Bash. "There are people around the President who have an irrational view of immigration. They always have, and if you follow that lead we'll never get anywhere."
"There are people in the White House who are outliers," Graham said
Last week, Graham presented a bipartisan immigration deal to the White House
Last week, Graham presented a bipartisan immigration deal to the White House alongside Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois. Trump rejected the deal. Durbin this week said "any attempt to kill immigration reform probably has (White House senior adviser Stephen) Miller's fingerprints on it." Miller, who was at the deal's presentation at the White House, and is one of the administration's most conservative members on immigration.
Earlier this week, Graham told reporters that Trump was "not well served by his staff" on the immigration debate. Asked about chief of staff John Kelly specifically, Graham called him a good man but noted that he is a member of the staff, and added that some at the White House have "an irrational view."
In his CNN interview, Graham expressed admiration for Kelly, who was in the room during the immigration meeting, but added that "on immigration, I've been dealing with it for about 10 years. I know where the bandwidth exists. ... There's still some room."
"The Democrats have to have leverage for the rest of the 11 million (undocumented immigrants). If they give us all we want on border and go to merit-based immigration, why would they expect us to deal with the rest of the 11 million illegal immigrants?" he asked.
Durbin has asserted that Trump referred to certain African nations as "shithole countries" while discussing the deal at the White House. Graham said that despite the remark, Trump is not a racist, but rather, reacts aggressively toward people who aren't nice to him.
"He's a street fighter," Graham said. "It's not the color of your skin that matters. It's not the content of your character. It's whether or not you show him respect and like him. And if he feels like you're off script, that you don't like him, he punches back."
Graham, appearing to appeal directly to Trump, called for him to be a leader.
"We need a leader, and you got here by being a street fighter. You beat me, you beat everybody else, and Mr. President, you have the ability to bring this country together," he said.
Pressed for details about last week's immigration meeting, Graham would not budge.
"I want to make sure that I can keep talking to the President. I told him what I thought, and that's more important than anything else," Graham said.