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GOP Blasts Trump Over McCain Comments  03/21 06:52

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Casting aside rare censure from Republican lawmakers, 
President Donald Trump aimed new blasts of invective at the late John McCain , 
even claiming credit for the senator's moving Washington funeral and 
complaining he was never properly thanked.

   By the time the president began his anti-McCain tirade in Ohio on Wednesday, 
several leading Republicans had signaled a new willingness to defy Trump by 
defending the Vietnam War veteran as a hero seven months after he died of brain 
cancer . One GOP senator called Trump's remarks "deplorable."

   Trump then launched a lengthy rant in which he claimed without citing 
evidence that McCain had pushed for a war and failed America's veterans.

   "I gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted," Trump told reporters at a 
campaign-style rally in Lima, Ohio. "I didn't get (a) thank you but that's OK."

   In fact, McCain's family made clear that Trump was not welcome during the 
weeklong, cross-country ceremonies that the senator had planned himself. 
Instead, McCain invited former Presidents George W. Bush, who defeated McCain 
during the 2000 GOP nomination fight, and Barack Obama, who defeated him in 
2008, to deliver eulogies on the value of pursuing goals greater than oneself. 
Trump signed off on the military transport of McCain's body, went golfing and 
was uncharacteristically quiet on Twitter during the Washington events.

   Trump's publicly nursed grudge against McCain has not appeared to alienate 
core supporters, some of whom had soured on the senator by the time of his 
death. Aware of this, GOP lawmakers until now have stayed subdued or silent 
though Trump sometimes infuriated them with his comments on their late 

   McCain's allies suggested it was time for that to change.

   "I hope (Trump's) indecency to John's memory and to the McCain family will 
convince more officeholders that they can't ignore the damage Trump is doing to 
politics and to the country's well-being or remain silent despite their 
concerns," said Mark Salter, McCain's biographer. "They must speak up."

   Trump has said for years that he doesn't think McCain is a hero because the 
senator was captured in Vietnam. McCain was tortured and held prisoner for more 
than five years.

   The president has never served in the military and obtained a series of 
deferments to avoid going to Vietnam, including one attained with a physician's 
letter stating that he suffered from bone spurs in his feet.

   One McCain Senate vote in particular is the thumbs-down Trump can't seem to 
forget. The Arizona senator in 2017 sank the GOP effort to repeal Obama's 
health care law. Trump was furious, and it showed even in the days after 
McCain's death last August. The administration lowered the American flag over 
the White House to half-staff when McCain died on a Saturday, but then raised 
it by Monday. After public outcry, the White House flags were again lowered.

   This week, Trump unloaded a new series of anti-McCain tweets in which he 
said he never had been "a fan" and never would be.

   His relentless new targeting of the deceased senator seemed to cross a 
boundary for several Republicans.

   Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called McCain "a rare patriot and 
genuine American hero in the Senate." McConnell tweeted, "His memory continues 
to remind me every day that our nation is sustained by the sacrifices of 

   The Kentucky Republican, who is up for re-election next year, never 
mentioned Trump, but others weren't so shy.

   Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia said not only the McCain family but the 
nation "deserves better" than Trump's disparagement.

   "I don't care if he's president of the United States, owns all the real 
estate in New York, or is building the greatest immigration system in the 
world," Isakson told The Bulwark, a conservative news and opinion website. 
Later, Isakson called Trump's remarks "deplorable."

   "It will (be) deplorable seven months from now if he says it again," Isakson 
continued in remarks on Georgia Public Broadcasting's "Political Rewind" radio 
show, "and I will continue to speak out."

   Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the GOP's 2012 presidential nominee whom Trump 
briefly considered nominating as secretary of state, tweeted praise for McCain 
on Tuesday --- and criticism of Trump.

   "I can't understand why the President would, once again, disparage a man as 
exemplary as my friend John McCain: heroic, courageous, patriotic, honorable, 
self-effacing, self-sacrificing, empathetic, and driven by duty to family, 
country, and God," Romney wrote.

   Pushback also came from Sen. Martha McSally, a Republican Air Force veteran 
appointed to McCain's seat from Arizona.

   "John McCain is an American hero and I am thankful for his life of service 
and legacy to our country and Arizona," she tweeted Wednesday. "Everyone should 
give him and his family the respect, admiration, and peace they deserve."

   That McSally declined to criticize Trump directly reflected the broader 
wariness among Republicans to cross a president famous for mobilizing his 
followers against GOP lawmakers he deems disloyal. But this week, Trump seemed 
to inspire a new determination among some to draw a line, however delicately.

   Sen. Lindsey Graham, who wept openly on the Senate floor after McCain died 
but has allied himself strongly with Trump, said, "I think the president's 
comments about Sen. McCain hurt him more than they hurt the legacy of Sen. 

   "A lot of people are coming to John's defense now. ... I don't like it when 
he says things about my friend John McCain."

   Democratic leaders, meanwhile, were eager to jump into the uproar.

   "I look forward to soon re-introducing my legislation re-naming the Senate 
Russell Building after American hero, Senator John McCain," tweeted Senate 
Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York.


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