Donald Trump is ‘a wrecking ball for the future of the Republican party,’ Lindsey Graham says

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Dylan Stableford
·Senior Writer
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Trump addresses supporters during a rally in Phoenix on Saturday. (Photo: Charlie Leight/Getty Images)

A handful of protesters interrupted Donald Trump during a speech in Phoenix Saturday night, and the outspoken Republican presidential candidate responded just as you might expect — with a joke about illegal immigration.

“I wonder if the Mexican government sent them over here,” Trump said. “Don’t worry, we’ll take our country back.”

It was a familiar theme for Trump, who has come under fire for his comments about Mexican immigrants since announcing his candidacy.

“These are people that shouldn’t be in our country,“ Trump said Saturday. "They flow in like water.”

Which is why several GOP leaders, including RNC chairman Reince Priebus, have called on Trump to tone down the rhetoric.

"I think he’s hijacked the debate,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday. “I think he’s a wrecking ball for the future of the Republican Party with the Hispanic community, and we need to push back.”

“I’m very worried about where we’re headed as a party. I don’t think this is the way to get the Latino vote,” Graham said. “If we do not reject this way of thinking clearly, without any ambiguity, we will have lost our way. If we don’t reject it, we’ve lost the moral authority, in my view, to govern this country.”

On “Meet The Press,” Trump’s positions on a variety of other issues, including health care and abortion, were scrutinized.

“People feel they know where he stands,” Chuck Todd said on Sunday’s broadcast. “But do they? We’ve been looking at his positions through the years. It would be fair to say he’s evolved, quite a few times, on some key issues.”

Among them: Hillary Clinton.

“I think Hillary would be a terrible president,” Trump said Wednesday. “She was the worst secretary of state in the history of our nation. Why would she be a good president?”

But in 2012, Trump said seemed to hint he would support her.

“Hillary Clinton, I think, is a terrific woman,” he told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren. “I mean I’m a little biased because I’ve known her for years. … I think she really works hard and I think she does a good job. I like her.”

During his speech in Phoenix, Trump called President Barack Obama “incompetent.” But he wasn’t always as harsh.

“I really like him,” Trump said of Obama in 2010. “On a personal basis, I like him.”

“I think [U.S. Treasury Secretary] Tim Geithner’s done a good job,” the real estate mogul said in the same interview. “I think that the whole group has really done a good job when you look at what’s happened. I mean, at least we have an economy. You wouldn’t have had an economy had they not come up with some very drastic steps two years ago.”

Trump recently called Obamacare plan “a total lie” and “a total and complete disaster.”

But in 2000, Trump called himself “a liberal on health care,” and strong supporter of universal health coverage.

“We have to take care of people that are sick,” Trump said. “What’s the country all about if we’re not going to take care of our sick?”

On taxes, Trump recently said, “Everybody wants to pay as little as possible — including Warren Buffett, by the way, despite what he says. And so he said, ‘What’s your tax rate?’ I don’t know. I pay as little as possible.”

In 1999, though, Trump sounded more like Bernie Sanders.

“I would tax people of wealth, of great wealth, people over $10 million, by 14.25 percent,” Trump told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews at the time. “This tax would raise approximately $5.7 trillion, which happens to be our national debt.”

Trump’s position on abortion has evolved, too.

“I’m very pro-life and feel strongly about it,” Trump said in February.

But in 1999, Trump said he was “very pro-choice.”

“I hate the concept of abortion,” he told NBC’s Tim Russert. “I hate it. I hate everything it stands for.”

Given how often the former “Celebrity Apprentice” has spoken publicly over the years, it’s not hard to find the shifts in his positions — sometimes even within the same day.

“I’m ready to go right at the Mexican government,“ Trump told the Washington Post before his speech in Phoenix. "I’m going to charge them $25,000 per illegal immigrant and, oh, I’ll make them pay.”

But during his speech, the Post noted, Trump put that figure at $100,000.