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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 McCainCindy McCain planning 'intimate memoir' of life with John McCain Trump-McConnell rift divides GOP donors Arkansas state senator says he's leaving Republican Party MORE (Ariz.) during a closed-door meeting with President TrumpDonald TrumpSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Georgia secretary of state withholds support for 'reactionary' GOP voting bills MORE on Tuesday.

Several GOP senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Murkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo 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 CornynPassage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers Democrats look to improve outreach to Asian and Latino communities 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 CorkerIt's time for Biden's Cuba GOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics Former GOP senator: Republicans cannot let Trump's 'reckless' post-election claims stand 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 RoundsPowell pushes back on GOP inflation fears Overnight Health Care: US surpasses half a million COVID deaths | House panel advances Biden's .9T COVID-19 aid bill | Johnson & Johnson ready to provide doses for 20M Americans by end of March 11 GOP senators slam Biden pick for health secretary: 'No meaningful experience' 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.