Trump Defends Response to John McCain's Death as He Refuses to Pick Between Late Senator & Obama
"I’ve done everything that they requested," President Donald Trump told Bloomberg News
As many of politics most prominent figures prepare to eulogize and honor John McCain this weekend, the president is not backing down on his highly criticized response to the senator and war hero’s death.
“No, I don’t think I did at all,” he told the outlet from the Oval Office. “I’ve done everything that they requested and no, I don’t think I have at all.”
Further, he added of the late Republican senator from Arizona, “We had our disagreements and they were very strong disagreements. I disagreed with many of the things that I assume he believed in.”
The president initially addressed McCain’s death last Saturday at 81 with a two-sentence tweet, writing, “My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!”
According to a report from The Washington Post, the Trump White House prepared a statement to pay tribute, but Trump decided not to release it.
The official statement reportedly went through internal approvals and was supposed to be sent out when the news of McCain’s death broke, a source told CNN. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Chief of Staff John Kelly and other officials reportedly wanted a statement to call McCain a hero for his service in the Vietnam War and time in the Senate, according to the Post.
Later, on Monday, Trump released a full statement announcing that the White House flag would return to half-staff after previously going to full-staff just two days after McCain’s death. He also said that Vice President Mike Pence would represent his administration at funeral services.
“Despite our differences on policy and politics, I respect Senator John McCain’s service to our country and, in his honor, have signed a proclamation to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff until the day of his interment,” Trump said.
Among the many critics’ to Trump’s response was former President Jimmy Carter. In an interview with Fox Business Network‘s Cavuto: Coast to Coast, Carter said, “I thought that President Trump made a mistake at first by not recognizing John McCain’s unquestioned commitment to our country in the Navy and as a prisoner of war and also in his service in Congress.”
He noted that Trump “adequately corrected” the mistakes with the flag by issuing the later statement.
Also during his interview with Bloomberg, the 72-year-old was asked if McCain would have been a better president than his 2008 opponent, former President Barack Obama.
Trump declined to respond, saying, “I don’t want to comment on it. I have a very strong opinion, all right.”
The outlet noted that Sanders was in the room, and stared at him during his response. Trump joked that she was “having a nervous breakdown” over his response. He added, “Maybe I’ll give you that answer some day later.”
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Despite their rocky history, the longtime politician did not prohibit Trump from attending his funeral, a McCain family source previously told PEOPLE.
“John had a feud with the president, and it got pretty intense, but I never heard anyone in the family say John banned Trump, and he never said that to me,” the source told PEOPLE. “John didn’t ban Trump. John could be spiteful, and he loved a good fight, but he wouldn’t do something like that.”
On Friday morning, McCain’s body was transported to the state capitol to lie in repose in the Rotunda for a public viewing.
Among those who eulogized the leader on Friday were Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. Paul Ryan.