Graham: 'Flag had to come down. And thank God that it has'

South Carolina votes to remove Confederate flag
South Carolina Confederate Flag take down_00015512

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South Carolina votes to remove Confederate flag 02:16

(CNN)Republican Presidential candidate Lindsey Graham, who previously supported the Confederate flag's presence at the South Carolina statehouse, said the legislature's decision to remove it was the right one.

"The flag had to come down. And thank God that it has," the South Carolina senator told CNN's "New Day," in a wide ranging interview where he discussed the flag, immigration and ISIS.
Dylann Roof, who killed nine people last month in a church shooting in Charleston, said he aimed to start a race war between blacks and whites. The 21-year-old was repeatedly photographed with the flag.
    Since then, the prominence of the flag on the state capitol grounds has become a divisive symbol that critics say encourages racism and hate, Graham said.
    He added that conservatives must improve their record on race relations and that begins with dismissing candidate Donald Trump's comments about Mexicans. The real estate mogul repeatedly has said that Mexicans are entering the U.S. illegally and murdering and raping American citizens. Multiple companies and celebrities have ended their business relationship with Trump as a result.
    Graham said Trump's comments about immigrants stem from "sheer ignorance," noting that many immigrants come from impoverished, corrupt countries.
    "This wave of immigrants, even though they came here illegally, is just like every other group that came," he said. "They came to do jobs that people wouldn't do."
    Graham said he's been working on immigration reform for a decade and that the American people resonate with Trump's frustration with not having a solution to the problem. But Trump's words do not bring the country closer to having a solution.
    "Trump is digging a hole with Hispanics and if he keeps digging, we'll (Republicans) never win the White House," he said.
    Graham dismissed comments Trump made on CNN stating that Graham is overly eager to bomb the Middle East in response to terrorism. Graham, an Air Force veteran, said war may be the best way to keep Americans safe.
    "I don't think it's unpopular with the American public to stop radical Islam for coming back to our shores," he said. "There is no way I know to defend America without some of us going back over there."
    Graham, who said he has been to Iraq 35 times, said the threat is bigger than one country and that more troops are needed in the region to defeat ISIS.
    "You got to stabilize Iraq, but if you don't get Syria right, you'll lose Lebanon and Jordan and we have no plan when it comes to Syria," he said.