President Donald Trump on Sunday reportedly decided against releasing an official statement praising Sen. John McCain, instead writing a short post on Twitter that mentioned only McCain's family.
The White House had prepared a full statement, as is customary. But when McCain passed away on Saturday at age 81 after a battle with brain cancer, Trump rejected its release, the Washington Post reported.
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 beforeMcCain 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.
In his tweet, Trump mentioned only McCain's family and offered no praise for McCain, who he had battled since announcing his run for the presidency in 2016.
"My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!" Trump wrote.
Trump and McCain clashed often. After Trump in 2016 attacked Mexican immigrants — "They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists" — McCain said Trump was "firing up the crazies" with his views.
Trump fired back, saying at a campaign event in Iowa that McCain was not a war hero.
"He's a war hero because he was captured," he said. "I like people that weren't captured."
McCain hit back after a tape of Trump making vile comments about women — the "grab 'em by the p***y" scandal — emerged. "Donald Trump's behavior makes it impossible to continue to offer even conditional support for his candidacy," McCain said, adding that there were "no excuses" for Trump's comments.
The Arizona Republican also drew Trump's ire when he went against his party and voted against Trump's bid to reform health care. Trump said of the Republicans who opposed his proposal: "They don't have the guts to vote for it."
Meanwhile, former presidents and statesmen around the world effusively praised the fiery senator and war hero. Barack Obama, who defeated McCain in the 2008 presidential election, said in a statement on Saturday night that “we shared, for all our differences, a fidelity to something higher — the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched and sacrificed.”
George W. Bush, who won the Republican nomination for president over Mr. McCain in 2000, said in his statement: “Some lives are so vivid, it is difficult to imagine them ended. Some voices are so vibrant it is hard to imagine them stilled.”
Bush and Obama are expected to offer eulogies at his funeral, to be held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Vice President Mike Pence is to attend, but not Trump.