McCain warns of 'flirting with authoritarianism'

Sen. John McCainJohn McCainOvernight Defense: General warns State Department cuts would hurt military | Bergdahl lawyers appeal Trump motion | Senators demand action after nude photo scandal Senate lawmakers eye hearing next week for Air Force secretary: report House Intel chairman under fire from all sides MORE (R-Ariz.) on Friday warned about trends toward intolerance and authoritarianism, seeming to rebuke President Trump without mentioning him by name.

“What would von Kleist’s generation say if they saw our world today?” he asked at the Munich Security Conference, referencing Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist, a member of a failed 1944 plot to assassinate Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

"They would be alarmed by an increasing turn away from universal values and toward old ties of blood, and race, and sectarianism," McCain said. "They would be alarmed by the hardening resentment we see toward immigrants, and refugees, and minority groups, especially Muslims.

"They would be alarmed by the growing inability, and even unwillingness, to separate truth from lies. They would be alarmed that more and more of our fellow citizens seem to be flirting with authoritarianism and romanticizing it as our moral equivalent.”

McCain then challenged listeners to recall that “we stand for truth against falsehood, freedom against tyranny, right against injustice, [and] hope against despair.”

“I am proud, unapologetic believer in the West, and I believe we must always, always stand up for it — for if we do not, who will?” the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee asked.

McCain praised Defense Secretary James Mattis, but said the controversy surrounding ousted National Security Advisor Michael Flynn shows a White House in "disarray."

“I think that the Flynn issue obviously is something that shows that in many respects this administration is in disarray and they’ve got a lot of work to do,” McCain said. “The president, I think, makes statements [and] on other occasions contradicts himself. So we’ve learned to watch what the president does as opposed to what he says."

Flynn was asked to resign after misleading top officials including Vice President Mike PenceMike (Michael) Richard PenceReport: Trump regrets backing health plan before pushing for tax reform Dems mock House GOP over lack of women in healthcare meeting More than ever, Justice must demand a special prosecutor for Trump-Russia probe MORE about his pre-inauguration conversations with Russia's ambassadors. A December call reportedly addressed U.S. sanctions. 

McCain’s remarks follow a Thursday press conference where President Trump hammered the media.

“Many of our nation’s reporters and folks will not tell you the truth and will not treat you with the respect you deserve,” he said at the White House.

“The press has become so dishonest that if we don’t talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. The press is out of control, the dishonesty is out of control.”

Trump has repeatedly labeled reports critical of him as “fake news,” prompting critics to warn the president that he is attempting to delegitimize the free press.

The president, who has sparred with McCain, also signed an executive order indefinitely suspending the acceptance of refugees from Syria, temporarily halting the entire refugee program and temporarily blocking citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. A judge put the order on hold while a lawsuit against it proceeds, and Trump has said he would issue a new order next week.