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Story highlights

Trump says he understands voters are upset about illegal immigration

The Republican front-runner has been the subject of robocalls from the "American National Super PAC"

(CNN) —  

Donald Trump is rejecting the support of a white nationalist group backing him in Iowa, but embracing what he called the “anger” that has come to characterize his campaign and its followers.

“I would disavow” the group’s robocalls to voters, Trump told CNN’s Erin Burnett Wednesday night on “OutFront,” after being asked about the American National Super PAC, which is urging Iowans in recorded phone messages to “vote Trump” because “we don’t need Muslims.”

But the billionaire developer, who has called for a temporary ban on Muslim immigration to the U.S, tied their efforts to the deep outrage he sees among voters, saying he viewed it as a necessary catalyst in his quest to “make America great again.”

Trump cited as a reason for the anger a number of violent crimes allegedly committed by undocumented immigrants.

“People are angry, they’re angry at what’s going on,” he said. “They’re angry at the border, they’re angry at the crime, they’re angry at people coming in and shooting Kate [Steinle] in the back in California, in San Francisco, they’re angry when Jamiel Shaw was shot in the face by an illegal immigrant, they’re angry when the woman, the veteran, 65 years old, is raped sodomized and killed by an illegal immigrant. And they’re very angry about it and, by the way, thousands of other cases like that.”

For several days, the Trump campaign had declined to comment on the super PAC’s robocalls.

The 50-second recording is voiced by Jared Taylor, founder of the New Century Foundation and its American Renaissance magazine, and two others.

“I urge you to vote for Donald Trump,” Taylor says in the calls, “because he is the one candidate who points out that we should accept immigrants who are good for America.”

RELATED: White nationalist group urges Iowans to vote Trump

“As far as I’m concerned, anger is OK,” Trump said on CNN. “Anger and energy is what this country needs.”

Whether the message will lift him to victory in Iowa remains an open question. Recent polls show Trump and Ted Cruz, the conservative senator from Texas, running neck-and-neck in the Hawkeye State.

In recent weeks, Trump repeatedly raised questions over whether Cruz, who was born in Canada to an American mother, is eligible to become president.

“I don’t know how he solves [the issue],” Trump said on “OutFront.” “He’s very nervous … if he ever got [the nomination], the Democrats are going to bring suit the first day. How do you run when you have that over your head?”

Cruz has mostly brushed off the question, and met his rival’s baiting with notes of humor. Last week, after Trump described the situation as “very precarious,” the senator’s campaign tweeted a video clip of Fonzie from “Happy Days” jumping the proverbial shark.

The men will have the opportunity to hash it out on Thursday night, as the remaining Republican primary candidates gather for a Fox Business Network prime-time debate in Charleston, South Carolina.

The venue puts Trump on the home soil of Nikki Haley, the Palmetto State governor who on Tuesday night used her response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address as an opportunity to take a shot at the GOP front-runner.

“During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices,” Haley said, without mentioning Trump by name in her remarks, although she said later she was referring to Trump, as well as others. “We must resist that temptation. No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.”

On Wednesday night, Trump said Haley was correct – he is mad.

“I’m angry at the way the country is being run and by the results that we have,” he said.

Trump then promised that his election would bring “great victories” – and with them a new, better national mood.

If elected in November, Trump said, the anger would “be gone very quickly.”