Trump Reportedly Nixed White House Plans For Laudatory Statement About McCain

President Trump reportedly vetoed a plan to issue a statement lauding Senator John McCain after he died on Saturday.

After Senator John McCain died on Saturday, the White House staff apparently drafted a statement for the President that was quite laudatory toward the late Senator, but President Trump nixed it in favor of a bland tweet from the President:

President Trump nixed issuing a statement that praised the heroism and life of Sen. John McCain, telling senior aides he preferred to issue a tweet before posting one Saturday night that did not include any kind words for the late Arizona Republican.

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and other White House aides advocated for an official statement that gave the decorated Vietnam War POW plaudits for his military and Senate service and called him a “hero,” according to current and former White House aides, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal deliberations. The original statement was drafted before McCain died Saturday, and Sanders and others edited a final version this weekend that was ready for the president, the aides said.

But Trump told aides he wanted to post a brief tweet instead, and the statement praising McCain’s life was not released.

“My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!” Trump posted Saturday evening shortly after McCain’s death was announced.

Sanders declined to comment Sunday afternoon.

“It’s atrocious,” Mark Corallo, a former spokesman for Trump’s legal team and a longtime Republican strategist, said of Trump’s reaction to McCain’s death. “At a time like this, you would expect more of an American president when you’re talking about the passing of a true American hero.”

The break with precedent of previous presidents — who have typically released effusive official statements for noteworthy Americans upon their death — underscored the bitter relationship between the two men, Trump’s continued anger toward McCain, and the substantive and stylistic differences between them, people close to both men said.

White House aides instead posted statements from officials other than the president praising McCain. By Sunday afternoon, the vice president, secretary of state, homeland security secretary, defense secretary, national security adviser, White House press secretary, counselor to the president, education secretary, interior secretary and others had posted statements lauding the 2008 Republican presidential nominee. Former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush issued glowing eulogies as well.

Other world leaders, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron, released similar statements.

“John McCain was a true American hero. He devoted his entire life to his country. His voice will be missed. Our respectful thoughts go to his beloved ones,” Macron posted on Twitter.

As tributes poured in, the president who said McCain was “not a war hero” spent much of Sunday at his golf course in Virginia and did not utter a word publicly. In the afternoon, he returned to the White House, where the flags were lowered to half-staff in honor of McCain.

Trump’s Twitter account was silent Sunday other than reprising screeds against the investigation into Russian election interference and boasting about a buoyant economy. “Fantastic numbers on consumer spending released on Friday!” Trump posted en route to the Virginia course Sunday morning. “Stock Market hits all time high!” Later Sunday, he accused the news media of giving Obama credit for his accomplishments, posting an excerpt of a weeks-old piece from the Washington Times.

As The New York Times notes, Trump’s behavior stands in stark contrast to what was is being said about the late Senator McCain by the nation as a whole:

As leaders of both political parties and foreign dignitaries publicly mourned John McCain on Sunday, President Trump conspicuously avoided a national moment of tribute to a senator whose death seemed to be its own metaphor for the demise of civility and unity in the Trump era.

The president did not make even the most cursory public show of respect on Sunday for Mr. McCain, against whom he had continued to indulge a personal grievance even as it was apparent that the Arizona Republican was losing his battle with brain cancer. The president spent much of the day golfing and attacking his usual enemies on Twitter.

It was the start of what promises to be a difficult week for Mr. Trump. Mr. McCain quietly declared before his death that he did not want Mr. Trump to take part in his funeral, a decision that will render the president a virtual pariah as the senator is eulogized by former presidents and other luminaries as a principled war hero and dedicated public servant.

But more than just the culmination of a political feud, the specter of Mr. Trump’s highly visible absence from Mr. McCain’s funeral on Saturday morning at Washington National Cathedral underscored the degree to which the president has veered from the norms of his office, unwilling to act as a unifying force at major moments in the life of the country.

“Everyone, including him, is more comfortable with him not there, and that’s a striking thing on its own, given that he is the president of the United States, and this was a sitting senator who is respected by both sides,” said Bill Kristol, the conservative commentator and editor at large of The Weekly Standard. “For better or worse, he’s outside what would have been the bipartisan boundaries, you might say, of American presidents.”

The dynamic reflects a president who wants nothing to do with the establishment and views almost everything as a zero-sum game that revolves around himself.

It also highlights the country’s rabid political polarization, which helped propel Mr. Trump to the White House. On Sunday, an admiring tribute to Mr. McCain tweeted by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive Democratic candidate for a New York congressional seat, was greeted by hundreds of vitriolic replies attacking the dead senator and branding Ms. Ocasio-Cortez a sellout and a panderer for praising him.

Some of Mr. Trump’s supporters, for their part, savaged Mr. McCain on social media, calling him a spiteful person who had betrayed his own party and blackballed the president as his dying wish. Mr. McCain — whom Mr. Trump once mocked for his five and a half years as a prisoner of war — spent the final months of his life as an outspoken Republican voice challenging Mr. Trump at a time when many in his party would not.

“For most of American history, politics stopped when you had the death of a national leader, and the fact that it hasn’t says an awful lot about the current state of our country and our politics, and in particular about Donald Trump,” said Michael Beschloss, the presidential historian. “What you’d want to see is a president acting as graciously and as large-mindedly as possible, in the John McCain spirit, but there is no sign of that yet.”

Mr. McCain had made his wishes clear during the months before his death, as he convalesced at his ranch near Sedona, Ariz., receiving visitors and fielding telephone calls from a cast of prominent well-wishers across the political spectrum and around the world.

The president was never one of them. His references to Mr. McCain in recent months were confined to contempt-filled moments at his political rallies when he would mimic the thumbs-down signal the senator had made when he voted against repealing the Affordable Care Act.

So intense was Mr. Trump’s animus for Mr. McCain that, when he traveled to Fort Drum, N.Y., this month to sign a defense bill named in the senator’s honor, the president refused to utter his name. Nor did Mr. Trump join leaders from both parties on Friday in sending sympathy to Mr. McCain and his family after it was announced that he was stopping treatment for his cancer. He died a day later.

On Sunday, flags at the White House were lowered to half-staff to honor the senator, and Vice President Mike Pence wrote on Twitter that “we honor his lifetime of service to this nation in our military and in public life.” But Mr. Trump issued no official statement hailing Mr. McCain. He conveyed his condolences to Mr. McCain’s loved ones on Twitter on Saturday night, but said nothing about Mr. McCain.

Here are the comments that Trump released on Twitter and Instagram:

As if to add insult to injury, the White House flag, which had been lowered to half-staff over the weekend, was back to its regular position, a break with long-standing tradition upon the death of notable Americans such as McCain:

It would be fairly easy for the flag atop the White House to be lowered to half-staff, of course. All that would be needed is a Presidential proclamation similar to those typically issued on the death of prominent Americans like McCain that would mandate that flags be lowered at least until after the person is buried. In the past, it is a custom that has been routinely been followed regardless of the party of the person who died or the person in the White House. It is meant to be a sign of respect. Instead of showing respect, though, President Trump is demonstrating once again how deeply narcissistic and petty he actually is.

Pettiness like this is hardly surprising coming from President Trump, of course. It is something he has demonstrated in other situations on numerous occasions and it is no surprise that he would demonstrate at the time that someone who is being lauded by pretty much all of official Washington as well as foreign leaders and officials ranging from the leaders of all of our major allies to even the former Commander of the Hanoi Hilton, where McCain was held prisoner for five years during the Vietnam War. Moreover, Trump has demonstrated from the time he became a Presidential candidate his disdain for McCain, beginning with the infamous comment in which Trump dismissed the notion that McCain was a hero and said that said he preferred people who weren’t captured. At other times, he attacked McCain as a “loser” who lost an election he should have won and sought to undermine and insult him at every turn. Even after McCain was diagnosed with brain cancer thirteen months ago, the President continued with vindictive and childish attacks against a man who has given more to his country than this President can ever contemplate. Without fail, every time I think that this President cannot sink any further he manages to demonstrate just how depraved and lacking in any sense of empathy he actually is. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. This is the “man” he has always been. It is the “man” he will always be.

Update: After a day of criticism, the White House has again lowered its flag to half-staff:


The White House has also released a revised statement on McCain’s death:

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.

I have asked Vice President Mike Pence to offer an address at the ceremony honoring Senator McCain at the United States Capitol this Friday.

At the request of the McCain family, I have also authorized military transportation of Senator McCain’s remains from Arizona to Washington, D.C., military pallbearers and band support, and a horse and caisson transport during the service at the United States Naval Academy.

Finally, I have asked General John Kelly, Secretary James Mattis, and Ambassador John Bolton to represent my Administration at his services.

Too little, too late.

FILED UNDER: Congress, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    All I can really say; that’s a big fat orange hunk of shit…with a really bad comb-over.

  2. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Trump just demonstrates – yet again, how childish, petty, self-absorbed, and vindictive he truly is. The man is an embarrassment – to both the office and the nation.

    In a better world, John McCain would be attending Trump’s funeral …

  3. Michael Reynolds says:

    Trump is a pig.

  4. Tony W says:

    He is a tiny, tiny man.

  5. CSK says:

    I really do wonder (don’t u?) what Trump’s plans for the coming week are. Among the possibilities:

    1. Holding a rally in Phoenix the day McCain is lying in state.
    2. Playing golf at Bedminster the day of the funeral.
    3. Tweeting about how the Fake Media is ignoring his many accomplishments to cover the Fake Obsequies of Loser John McCain.

  6. Kathy says:

    As someone who can give lessons on how to carry a grudge (meaning in trumpidian terms that I’m the least vindictive person you’ve ever met!), I do recognize a grudge can be carried too far. Especially as all McCain ever did to Trump was criticize him.

    But then, we have learned orange skin is thinner than onion skin.

  7. CSK says:

    Will he fire his entire cabinet for attending the funeral?

  8. Franklin says:

    Trump’s continued anger toward McCain, and the substantive and stylistic differences between them

    This sentence amused me. Being fairly respectful to other human beings was apparently a “stylistic” choice on the part of McCain.

  9. Kathy says:


    Will any in his cabinet dare attend the funeral?

    El Cheeto should refrain from making things worse by talking negatively about McCain, but I don’t think he’s capable of doing so. He may try, his advisers will urge him to try, but given the right opportunity and incentives, he will fail. Say if he sees coverage of effusive praise for McCain on his way to a rally.

    This will further increase his unpopularity, which will only cause him to double down. Wouldn’t it be ironic if what sinks him is not the Cohen and Manafort affairs, but his grudge with McCain?

  10. SenyorDave says:

    In general when you find out bad things about a person or group, it is usually worse than what you know. For example, the rapist who gets caught – it is very unlikely that is the first time he did something like that. Likewise with trump – he’s much, much worse than we know. It would never shock me to find out that he had people assaulted or worse. Remember that he was in bed with teh mob for much of his time in New York.

  11. grumpy realist says:

    What a thin-skinned, immature little man.

    It’s all about him, isn’t it?

  12. CSK says:


    Well, you can be absolutely sure that all the accolades McCain is receiving are driving Trump mad, and you can be 99% sure that he won’t be able to get through an entire week of them without erupting like a giant,pus-filled carbuncle at some point. From Trump’s standpoint, the best thing that could happen to him is for Mattis and Kelly to confiscate his phone, take away his televisions, lock him in his bedroom, and arrange for a guard to make regular Diet Coke ‘n’ cheeseburger deliveries.

  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    And who in the world is surprised by this?

  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Heh, Josh Marshall:

    As we know, President Trump despised John McCain. He notoriously sniped that McCain “was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” But his antipathy only truly became incandescent when McCain torpedoed, with great overnight drama, Trump’s effort to repeal Obamacare: the moment caught in this gif with the dramatic thumbs done, signaling Obamacare repeal would go down to defeat.

    Trump can never let anyone take the attention away from him. But McCain’s reputation is what it is. He and his family have arranged a multi-day public ceremony stretching from Arizona to Washington to Annapolis and topped it off with high profile roles for two of the President’s greatest nemeses, Barack Obama and George W. Bush. McCain reportedly made clear he did not want Trump in attendance.

    The most difficult part for the President will almost certainly be the fact that he sees the whole pageantry – rightly – as in significant measure a rebuke aimed at him. Through his life and especially in the last quarter century of his life McCain presented himself as a public icon for service, selflessness, sacrifice, honesty, courage. Whether he always lived up to those ideal isn’t the point. Frequently, he didn’t. But that’s what the coming days, inevitably, will be about. And every invocation of them will be at least an implicit and often an explicit rebuke of Trump who, for all McCain’s failings, is like an anti-McCain – most known for selfishness, indiscipline, lack of self-control, lying and being clinically bereft of shame.

    If you have any concern that this amounts to Trump and his awfulness somehow stepping on McCain’s moment, don’t be. It is almost certain that this would be and was precisely how McCain wanted it. It is almost unimaginable that Trump will be able to go a full week without some crass statement or public outburst aimed at McCain since McCain’s final public moments will all come at his expense. He will find that excruciating and it is hard to imagine he will get through it without further demeaning himself.

  15. Gustopher says:

    I like a little bit of pettiness as much as the next amazingly superficial and spiteful man, but the goal is to hurt the object of your rage, not just look like an ass.

    John McCain flew to Washington from his deathbed, just to vote against TrumpCare, when not voting would have had the same effect, and did so in the most dramatic way possible. That’s some serious spiteful behavior, and that’s how it’s done.

    This is just lame. Another example of Donald Trump not being able to do things right. The man is incompetent.

  16. mattbernius says:


    Trump just demonstrates – yet again, how childish, petty, self-absorbed, and vindictive he truly is. The man is an embarrassment – to both the office and the nation.

    It cannot be emphasized enough that the fact Trump is a raging asshole is a FEATURE not a bug for many of his supporters — in particular some who troll here.

    They just like to talk about it with the code “breaking norms.” It’s just their economic anxiety showing.

  17. Joe says:

    @CSK: @Kathy:

    My expectation is that Trump will call an all-hands emergency cabinet meeting scheduled in conflict with the funeral. My only fear is what the emergency will be.

  18. Kathy says:

    BTW! What gives with the exclamation points! It seems like he’s shouting his “hearts and prayers!” Or that he’s afraid of seeming insincere! Or something!

    And why is he using “our”! Does he have a tapeworm!

  19. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:


    It cannot be emphasized enough that the fact Trump is a raging asshole is a FEATURE not a bug for many of his supporters — in particular some who troll here.

    Joe Walsh, the former Congress-critter, and fairly big douchebag, himself:

    “I voted for a punch in the face.
    The punch in the face turns out to be a bully who purposefully lies to the American people everyday and who always puts his own interests ahead of the country’s interests.
    That may be okay with most of his supporters. It’s not ok with me.”

    The trolls who post here are either not smart enough to figure out that they have been conned, or just lack the balls to admit it.

  20. Lounsbury says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Indeed but perhaps it is better this way, rather than the pretension otherwise.

  21. mattbernius says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    The trolls who post here are either not smart enough to figure out that they have been conned, or just lack the balls to admit it.

    In at least one case, I think they don’t care. Or rather, so long as they are not burned by Trump’s actions and they feel like they are “winning,” they continue to take satisfaction in having elected an asshole.

    But this is going off topic.

  22. grumpy realist says:

    It seems to me that if I were a Republican Congresscritter and wanted to poke Trump in the ribs, one of the easiest ways to do it would be deliver a bunch of compliments about McCain. Not that a lot of them wouldn’t deliver the comments anyway because of wanting to pay homage to a good friend, but being able to take a swipe at Trump at the same time must be extra-sweet to a lot of them.

  23. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    This reminds me. I wonder what happened to MBunge? He seems to have just up and disappeared about the middle of last week. Weird, huh? Hope he’s alright.

  24. CSK says:


    Oh, let’s see…

    1. Declare war on Germany.

    2. Make North Korea the 51st state.

    3. Award Joe Arpaio the Medal of Freedom.

    4. Sell Hawaii to a Chinese real estate developer.

  25. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    “It’s atrocious,”

    Must be one of those days that ends in “y.”

    @Kathy: It doesn’t have to be a tapeworm; he could have a mouse in his pocket.

  26. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Neil Hudelson: I noticed, I simply thanked God for it being more quiet here. Does that make me a bad person?

  27. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Neil Hudelson: He’s always been all wrong, why change now?

  28. SC_Birdflyte says:

    Ivory Soap ain’t the only thing that floats. S### does too.

  29. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    RE: the flag at full staff…perhaps it’s the only thing Dennison can get up?

  30. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    perhaps it’s the only thing Dennison can get up?

    Apparently (according to Jim Acosta) the flag on the WH was just re-lowered to half-staff.
    So Dennison couldn’t keep it up!!!

  31. Franklin says:

    @Neil Hudelson: I was assuming he went on that vacation to Alaska with Guarneri and the rest of himselves.

  32. Kathy says:

    El Cheeto just issued one of the shallowest statements I’ve ever come across. He also manages to mention himself multiple times.

    Seriously, he’s like a dog: he doesn’t behave until he’s hit with a newspaper.

  33. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Dennison was shamed…he must be furious!!!

  34. CSK says:

    Calling someone a dog is the worst insult Trump can throw at someone. He hates dogs.
    I love dogs.

  35. Kathy says:


    I can, almost, understand people who don’t love dogs.

    People who hate dogs, though, are jerks. I don’t understand jerks.

  36. Joe says:


    I like dogs. (this is an avatar joke.)

  37. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Meh… In your *better world* scenario, we’d be stuck with Mike Pence enacting all of the same stuff without the baggage Donald Trump attached to it. Your position that we need to keep Trump in office for the full four years is the stronger one. THAT will disgrace both the GOP and conservatives and maybe lead to the possibility that we’d get back to having a LOYAL AND PRINCIPLED opposition in a decade or so.

  38. Kathy says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Meh… In your *better world* scenario, we’d be stuck with Mike Pence enacting all of the same stuff without the baggage Donald Trump attached to it.

    Yes, without the baggage. But also without the immunity from the Cult 45 base scaring almost everyone in the GOP into abject submission, witch more checks by Congress (maybe), without the constant attacks on lawful institutions acting lawfully, without the attacks on the press, without the pathological need to undo everything Obama did (like the Iran deal), without the boorish behavior towards America’s allies, without the trade wars (possibly), without cozying up to dictators.

    I’d take Pence instead. Sure, he’s no angel (certainly), and there’s much that’s wrong with him and his policies.

    If he wanted to take the job. Cleaning up after Trump will take years, and be very unpleasant.

  39. An Interested Party says:

    I’d take Pence instead.

    That would be a mistake…much better to keep the 2 ton orange anvil around the GOP’s neck…

  40. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: That’s where you and I differ. I object to the policies more than I do who the President is when they get enacted.

  41. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Trump really, if you look at it, isn’t enacting much of anything.

    I look at it as “we go into 2020 with the GOP hamstrung by either an incompetent moron or a malignant Bible thumper.”

    They both produce backlash. Different flavors of backlash, to be sure, but I’m satisfied with any flavor of backlash against Republicans in an election year.

  42. Kathy says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I care most about the policies. While I’ve no doubt Pence’s would be atrocious, he’d be far less likely to continue Trump’s bonehead trade policies (I hope), and tearing down institutions. He’d be far less damaging to the world.