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 McCainTrump administration weakens methane pollution standards for drilling on public lands Another recession could hit US in 2019, says credit union association chief R-E-S-P-E-C-T: One legacy of Franklin and McCain is up to us MORE (Ariz.) during a closed-door meeting with President TrumpDonald John TrumpLondon terror suspect’s children told authorities he complained about Trump: inquiry The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Trump to nominate retiring lawmaker as head of trade agency MORE on Tuesday.

Several GOP senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKey GOP senators appear cool to Kavanaugh accuser's demand Trump hints at new executive action on immigration, wants filibuster-proof Senate majority The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — The Hill interviews President 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 CornynKey GOP senators appear cool to Kavanaugh accuser's demand Trump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle GOP mulls having outside counsel question Kavanaugh, Ford 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 Corker GOP senator: Kavanaugh accuser 'moving the goalposts' Grassley willing to send staff to California to speak with Kavanaugh accuser Corker blasts Trump's 'ready, fire, aim' trade 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 RoundsOn The Money: Treasury rules target blue-state workarounds to tax law | Senate approves sweeping defense, domestic spending bill | US imposes B in tariffs on Chinese goods | Panel narrowly approves consumer bureau pick Senate panel narrowly approves Trump consumer bureau pick GOP sen: Sessions is ‘the right man for the job’ 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.