Trump keeps up attacks on 'horrible' McCain, despite calls from GOP, veterans

President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Dems demand Barr cancel 'inappropriate' press conference on Mueller report DOJ plans to release 'lightly redacted' version of Mueller report Thursday: WaPo Nadler accuses Barr of 'unprecedented steps' to 'spin' Mueller report MORE on Thursday took more shots at the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump gives nod to vulnerable GOP Sen. McSally with bill signing Democrats need a 'celebrity' candidate — and it's not Biden or Sanders Juan Williams: The high price of working for Trump MORE, despite growing calls from Republicans and veterans groups to stop attacking the Arizona GOP lawmaker who died last year.

In an interview with Fox Business Network, Trump called McCain “horrible” for his 2017 vote against a congressional Republican measure to repeal ObamaCare and accused him of handing a dossier of explosive claims about Trump’s ties to Russia to the FBI for “very evil purposes.”

When asked by anchor Maria Bartiromo why he continues to criticize McCain, who died seven months ago after battling brain cancer, Trump claimed he was prompted by the news media.

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“I don’t talk about it,” the president said. “People ask me the question. I didn’t bring this up. You just brought it up. You just asked the question.”

Trump renewed his attacks on McCain last weekend in an apparent reaction to a news report about the controversial dossier authored by former British spy Christopher Steele, not after he was asked about his attitude toward the senator.

He has continued to lash out at the former GOP senator over the past several days, telling reporters on Tuesday “I was never a fan of John McCain, and I never will be” and then on Wednesday grousing about not receiving a “thank you” for approving funeral arrangement plans for McCain, despite his dislike for the former senator. McCain was memorialized at Washington’s National Cathedral last fall, and Trump was not invited to attend.

Trump authorized a government airplane to transport McCain’s remains from Arizona to the nation’s capital but the cathedral said Trump’s approval was not needed to host the funeral.

Veterans’ groups expressed outrage over Trump’s continued attacks on McCain, a naval aviator who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

Vietnam Veterans of America National President John Rowan said in a statement Thursday his group is “chagrined” that Trump will not “let a fellow Vietnam veteran rest in peace.”

“This entire dustup is disgraceful, it’s deplorable and it’s destructive,” Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said on CNN. “It's bad for our military and veterans community and it’s bad for Donald Trump. This doesn’t help him. I can’t imagine who would support this position, continuing to attack a war hero.”

Republican lawmakers continued to plead with Trump to cease his attacks, highlighting the divide within the party over one of its most well-known members.

“Mr. President, seriously stop talking about Senator McCain,” tweeted Rep. Dan CrenshawDaniel CrenshawOcasio-Cortez knocks Republican over Kentucky trip: 'GOP thought they could catch us with a bluff' Overnight Energy: Collins receives more donations from Texas oil, gas industry than from Maine residents | Interior chief left meetings off schedule | Omar controversy jeopardizes Ocasio-Cortez trip to coal mine Freshman House Dems surge past GOP in money race MORE (R-Texas), a retired Navy SEAL who served in Afghanistan.

Crenshaw’s comment came one day after Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonCongress punts on disaster aid amid standoff with Trump, Dems Overnight Defense: Transgender troops rally as ban nears | Trump may call more troops to border | National Guard expects 3M training shortfall from border deployment | Pentagon to find housing for 5,000 migrant children Pompeo: Russia complying with nuclear treaty that's up for renewal MORE (R-Ga.) called Trump’s insults “deplorable.”

A number of other GOP senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump, Dems prep for Mueller report's release McConnell touts Trump support, Supreme Court fights in reelection video Why Ken Cuccinelli should be Trump's choice for DHS MORE (R-Ky.), issued statements lauding McCain but did not directly criticize Trump.

Updated 5:07 p.m.