GOP senators don't raise McCain in meeting with Trump

Republican senators didn't raise controversial comments a White House staffer made about GOP Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCollins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Meghan McCain: Country has not 'healed' from Trump under Biden Biden steps onto global stage with high-stakes UN speech MORE (Ariz.) during a closed-door meeting with President TrumpDonald TrumpUkraine's president compares UN to 'a retired superhero' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Heller won't say if Biden won election MORE on Tuesday.

Several GOP senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money — Democrats rush to finish off infrastructure Biden employs flurry of meetings to unite warring factions GOP senators say Biden COVID-19 strategy has 'exacerbated vaccine hesitancy' MORE (Ky.), said the issue did not come up during their hourlong meeting with Trump.

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Trump's powwow with Senate Republicans comes amid a days-long firestorm over comments first reported by The Hill from White House special assistant Kelly Sadler, who dismissed McCain's opposition to Gina Haspel's CIA director nomination by saying McCain is "dying anyway."

McConnell, who praised McCain from the Senate floor on Monday evening, said on Tuesday that Sadler should publicly apologize.

"The person who said that should apologize and should apologize publicly," he told reporters.

The White House, however, has indicated that will not happen.

Deputy press secretary Raj Shah confirmed that Sadler called McCain's daughter, Meghan, to apologize for her remarks but said the matter was being "dealt with internally."

And Trump on Twitter blasted not the insult but "the so-called leaks" coming out of the White House.

McConnell is the latest GOP senator to call for Sadler to apologize. Sen. John CornynJohn CornynDemocrats up ante in risky debt ceiling fight Senate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan Democrats make case to Senate parliamentarian for 8 million green cards MORE (R-Texas), McConnell's No. 2, said on Monday that an apology would be "appropriate" after she said a "really dumb thing." 

Republican senators have rushed to McCain's defense since late last week. Though he's been absent from Washington since late last year, the 81-year-old senator is deeply respected among his colleagues on Capitol Hill.

But GOP senators, including some of McCain's biggest allies, acknowledged hours before the lunch that they would likely not bring up Sadler's remarks and appeared resigned to the fact that the White House would not issue a public apology.

"You know, that's not what we do in these meetings, okay? No one would have ever brought up something like that," retiring GOP Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (Tenn.) — a previous target of Trump's — told reporters after the lunch when asked if they brought up McCain.

Instead, they described the private lunch meeting with Trump as a chance to take a victory lap on issues including North Korea, the economy and the Senate's record-breaking case on confirming the president's judicial nominees. 

“It was very cordial,” said Sen. Mike RoundsMike RoundsSenate advances Biden consumer bureau pick after panel logjam The 19 GOP senators who voted for the T infrastructure bill Senate passes T bipartisan infrastructure bill in major victory for Biden MORE (R-S.D.), who attended.

Senators say they discussed Iran and trade and that Trump reiterated his demand that they secure the border. 

Trump, according to McConnell and GOP Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (La.), also made jokes during the lunch. 

"The president's in a very good mood and really quite funny," McConnell said. 

Kennedy declined to repeat Trump's "funny jokes" but quipped that they were all "clean." 

Alexander Bolton contributed. Updated at 3:19 p.m.