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 McCainMellman: Where are good faith and integrity? GOP senator says Republicans didn't control Senate when they held majority Pence met with silence after mentioning Trump in Munich speech MORE (Ariz.) during a closed-door meeting with President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates Jeffrey Rosen to replace Rosenstein at DOJ McCabe says ‘it’s possible’ Trump is a Russian asset McCabe: Trump ‘undermining the role of law enforcement’ MORE on Tuesday.

Several GOP senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDems think they're beating Trump in emergency declaration battle Sanders: 'Not crazy' about nixing the Senate filibuster McCabe: No one in 'Gang of Eight' objected to FBI probe into Trump MORE (Ky.), said the issue did not come up during their hourlong meeting with Trump.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 CornynO'Rourke mulling another Senate run as well as presidential bid Texas senator introduces bill to produce coin honoring Bushes On unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 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 CorkerSasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger RNC votes to give Trump 'undivided support' ahead of 2020 Sen. Risch has unique chance to guide Trump on foreign policy 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 RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsGOP senator: Trump thinks funding deal is 'thin gruel' Lawmakers put Pentagon's cyber in their sights Endorsing Trump isn’t the easiest decision for some Republicans 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.