Trump continues to bash McCain as ‘horrible’ for role in Russia dossier

President blames media for asking questions about his unprompted criticism seven months after McCain’s death

Cindy McCain, the wife of the late Sen. John McCain, and their son Jimmy follow an honor guard carrying the senator’s casket out of the Washington National Cathedral after his funeral in September 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Cindy McCain, the wife of the late Sen. John McCain, and their son Jimmy follow an honor guard carrying the senator’s casket out of the Washington National Cathedral after his funeral in September 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted March 22, 2019 at 7:25am

President Donald Trump continued his feud with the late Sen. John McCain, calling the Arizona Republican “horrible” for handing to the FBI the so-called dossier of unflattering information about his pre-White House activities in Russia.

Trump has been lashing out at McCain for nearly a week after he apparently was reminded about the former Senate Armed Services chairman’s role in turning over that document to federal investigators. During a speech Wednesday ostensibly about the economy, the president even criticized the deceased senator and his family for not thanking him for approving parts of McCain’s funeral plans that needed a presidential green light.

“If you realize about three days ago, it came out that his main person gave to the FBI the fake news dossier,” Trump told Fox Business in an interview that aired Friday morning. “It was a fake, it was a fraud, it was paid for by Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. They gave it to John McCain who gave it to the FBI for very evil purposes, that’s not good.”

[‘No PAC money’ pledges leave corporations in a partisan bind]

Trump: McCain got the funeral he wanted, and I ‘didn’t get a thank you’

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The president also pinned his feeling about the late senator on McCain’s vote against legislation the White House back that would have repealed the entire 2010 health law.

“And the other thing he voted against repeal and replace, now he’s been campaigning for years for repeal and replace. I’m not a fan. After all of this time, think of this, repeal and replace, we would have had great health care.”

Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo shot back: “But, Mr. President, he’s dead. … He can’t punch back. I know you punch back, but he’s dead.”

She noted that GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia this week said the president needs a “whipping” due to his attacking the late McCain. But Trump did what he often does: He lashed out at the media.

“When they ask me the question,” he said defensively, “I answer the question.”

[President’s economic speech in Ohio becomes political rally — with tanks]

“But you people bring it up, I don’t bring it up,” Trump said, before returning his ire to the deceased lawmaker: “I’m not a fan. He was horrible what he did with repeal and replace. What he did to the Republican Party and to the nation, and to sick people that could have had great health care, was not good. So, I’m not a fan of John McCain and that’s fine.”

McCain’s daughter and some GOP lawmakers have defended the deceased senator and urged Trump to drop his attacks.

“I think the president’s comments about Sen. McCain hurt him more than they hurt the legacy of Sen. McCain,” South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham told WLOS-TV in Spartanburg. “My job is to represent the people of South Carolina. They want me to work with the president where I can. I’ve gotten to know the president. We have a good working relationship. I like him. I don’t like it when he says things about my friend John McCain.”

Criticism for the Fed

The president contended his trade policies are helping the economy, predicting his administration will close a deal with China and defending his tariffs on Chinese goods.

“I think the deal will probably happen,” he said. “They need it … badly.”

Without naming him, he criticized Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, saying without his interest rate policies the economy would be growing at a clip above 4 percent. (Gross domestic product swelled at a 2.6 percent rate in the fourth quarter of 2018, below the White House’s predictions of 3 percent growth.)

“I don’t care if I influenced or not,” Trump said of the Fed’s recent decision to leave interest rates static, breaking with past presidents who let the Federal Reserve operate as an independent entity.

No tariffs for European-made cars

Trump again criticized the European Union, saying that bloc of countries has treated the United States unfairly. He wants European automobile models that are sold here to also be built in the U.S., and said he would never lower tariffs on European-made cars to 0 percent — no matter the other terms the EU might offer.

That’s because he has concluded an American-made pickup truck would not sell as well in Europe as a Mercedes-Benz car would sell here, he said.

2020 campaign

Trump again lashed out at Democrats, saying they have become a “far-left” party.

He said he hopes Democrats continue to push things like the Green New Deal because he thinks “it’s going to be easy to beat” them in 2020.

Asked about the field of 2020 Democratic candidates and likely White House hopefuls, the president said he would “love” to run against former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont or former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas.

Infrastructure deal

Trump told Fox he still hopes he and lawmakers can strike an infrastructure overhaul deal, saying he spoke to Speaker Nancy Pelosi “the other day” and she wants to try and craft a bill.