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

President TrumpDonald John TrumpMilitary personnel to handle coronavirus patients at facilities in NYC, New Orleans and Dallas Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort has total of 20 patients: report Fauci says that all states should have stay-at-home orders MORE on Thursday took more shots at the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP senator suspending campaign fundraising, donating paycheck amid coronavirus pandemic Biden's pick for vice president doesn't matter much Juan Williams: Biden's promises on women are a big deal 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 CrenshawHispanic Caucus campaign arm unveils non-Hispanic endorsements Lawmakers ask Trump administration to help Gulf oil and gas producers Annual Congressional Dinner pushed back to June amid coronavirus concerns MORE (R-Texas), a retired Navy SEAL who served in Afghanistan.

Crenshaw’s comment came one day after Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonLoeffler traded .4M in stocks as Congress responded to coronavirus pandemic Loeffler under fire for stock trades amid coronavirus outbreak The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden riding wave of momentum after stunning Super Tuesday MORE (R-Ga.) called Trump’s insults “deplorable.”

A number of other GOP senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats press Trump, GOP for funding for mail-in ballots Top GOP lawmakers push back on need for special oversight committee for coronavirus aid Stocks move little after record-breaking unemployment claims MORE (R-Ky.), issued statements lauding McCain but did not directly criticize Trump.

Updated 5:07 p.m.