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

President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot Intelligence community investigating links between lawmakers, Capitol rioters Michelle Obama slams 'partisan actions' to 'curtail access to ballot box' MORE on Thursday took more shots at the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainFormer Trump Defense chief Esper to join McCain Institute We need an independent 1/6 commission that the whole country can have confidence in GOP targets Manchin, Sinema, Kelly on Becerra 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 CrenshawCrenshaw pours cold water on 2024 White House bid: 'Something will emerge' Six ways to visualize a divided America Texas lawmakers' tweets mocking California power outages resurface amid winter storm MORE (R-Texas), a retired Navy SEAL who served in Afghanistan.

Crenshaw’s comment came one day after Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonLoeffler leaves door open to 2022 rematch against Warnock Perdue on potential 2022 run: GOP must regain the Senate Bottom line MORE (R-Ga.) called Trump’s insults “deplorable.”

A number of other GOP senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRon Johnson grinds Senate to halt, irritating many Klain on Harris breaking tie: 'Every time she votes, we win' How to pass legislation in the Senate without eliminating the filibuster MORE (R-Ky.), issued statements lauding McCain but did not directly criticize Trump.

Updated 5:07 p.m.