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

President TrumpDonald John TrumpRussia's election interference is a problem for the GOP Pence to pitch trade deal during trip to Michigan: report Iran oil minister: US made 'bad mistake' in ending sanctions waivers MORE on Thursday took more shots at the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainIf you don't think illegal immigrants are voting for president, think again 10 factors making Russia election interference the most enduring scandal of the Obama era Earth Day founder's daughter: Most Republican leaders believe in climate change in private 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 CrenshawVA 'ain't broke' — but it can certainly be improved Ocasio-Cortez plans visit to Kentucky despite being disinvited by GOP colleague Ocasio-Cortez knocks Republican over Kentucky trip: 'GOP thought they could catch us with a bluff' 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 Morning Report - Dem candidates sell policy as smart politics Overnight Defense: Trump ends sanctions waivers for buying Iranian oil | At least four Americans killed in Sri Lanka attacks | Sanders pushes for Yemen veto override vote McConnell: 'Time to move on' from Trump impeachment talk MORE (R-Ky.), issued statements lauding McCain but did not directly criticize Trump.

Updated 5:07 p.m.