President Donald Trump in recent weeks has stepped up his feud with Senator John McCain, even though McCain passed away last August and was publicly battling brain cancer for two years before that. The bad blood between the two men has been a major storyline of the Trump era, and here are five moments that defined the feud between the president and the late senator.
1. The early years
President Trump has said, on more than one occasion in recent weeks, that “I was never a fan of John McCain.” But that’s not quite true. Trump endorsed McCain for president in 2008 and donated to him heavily prior to his own entry into electoral politics. In fact, a Roll Call story in 2017 found that of the 44 then-members of Congress who had received political contributions from Trump, the one who received the most was McCain, with $8,600. The second-most was another senator with whom Trump has more recently clashed, Sen. Charles Schumer of New York.
2. “I like people who weren’t captured”
Once Trump decided to run for president in 2016, he and McCain were soon at odds. After Trump, in his 2015 announcement speech, criticized immigrants from Mexico (“they’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists”), McCain told The Arizona Republic that he disagreed with the comments. Trump responded at an Iowa campaign event that “he’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” Trump had actually made a similar comment about McCain in a 60 Minutes interview in 2000 when McCain was running for president and Trump was considering doing so himself.
The two continued to spar throughout the 2016 campaign, with Trump making a point of ripping McCain during campaign stops in Arizona. McCain, who had had a speaking slot at the last several Republican National Conventions, skipped the RNC in 2016. McCain ultimately endorsed Trump after the convention, but publicly withdrew his endorsement, per The Hill, following the release of the Access Hollywood tape in October.
3. Thumbs down
Trump falsely claims that John McCain sent dossier to FBI, media 'BEFORE the election.'— Yahoo News (@YahooNews) March 17, 2019
Kramer testified he only was briefed on the dossier by a former British diplomat on Nov. 19, 2016, nearly two weeks after Election Day. https://t.co/VKCYmfGGIN
Trump was elected president and inaugurated in early 2017. Days before his inauguration, Buzzfeed published Christopher Steele’s dossier alleging collusion between Trump and Russia, and subsequent reporting found that McCain had played a role in passing the dossier to the FBI. That July, McCain announced that he had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, and began undergoing treatment that required him to sometimes be absent from the Senate.
In a late night vote on July 28, 2017, McCain stepped up on the Senate floor and gave a thumbs-down gesture, indicating a no vote on the “skinny repeal” of Obamacare. The bill would not have meant immediate passage of repeal, as House and Senate bills still needed reconciliation that was not likely to have been achieved. But McCain’s vote meant the end of the last major effort by Trump to undo President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement.
4. The funeral
Once it was clear that McCain was going to die, the senator made it known that he did not wish for Trump to attend his funeral, NBC News reported in May of 2018. He requested that the two previous presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, give eulogies, even though he had not only run against both men but had frequently clashed with both in public.
McCain passed away on August 25, 2018, at the age of 81. His funeral was held at the National Cathedral in Washington on September 1, and Trump indeed skipped the service. Bush and Obama delivered eulogies, as did several dignitaries and family members. Several speakers at the nationally televised service gave general appeals to decency and the honors of public service, which were interpreted as subtle and not-so-subtle shots at the president.
5. Feud after death
Contrary to Trump's complaints, it seems the National Cathedral likely approved McCain's state funeral arrangements, that congressional authorization is needed for lying in state at the Capitol and Trump only had to approve the military transportation. https://t.co/hUSb4WFaVW— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) March 21, 2019
It might have been assumed that Trump and McCain’s feud would come to an end once one of them had passed away, especially considering how many enemies Trump still has who remain alive. But that was not the case.
Trump has periodically ripped McCain, in speeches and on Twitter, since his death, mostly focusing on McCain’s role in the Steele dossier saga and his vote against Obamacare. Trump said on Twitter on March 17 that McCain had attempted to spread the dossier prior to the 2016 election, which was not true.
On March 20, speaking at a tank plant in Ohio, per The Inquisitr, Trump appeared to criticize McCain’s family for not thanking him for approving a state funeral for the senator.
“I gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted, which as president I had to approve,” Trump said, to silence. “I don’t care about this, I didn’t get thank you, that’s okay, we sent him on the way.”
Per HuffPost, the state funeral arrangement likely needed to be approved by the National Cathedral, and not by the president.