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 McCainMeghan McCain to produce 'Don't Sweat the Small Stuff' Lifetime movie starring Heather Locklear An August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done Meghan McCain on Pelosi, McCarthy fight: 'I think they're all bad' MORE (Ariz.) during a closed-door meeting with President TrumpDonald TrumpMyPillow CEO to pull ads from Fox News Haaland, Native American leaders press for Indigenous land protections Simone Biles, Vince Lombardi and the courage to walk away MORE on Tuesday.

Several GOP senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAn August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done After police rip Trump for Jan. 6, McCarthy again blames Pelosi The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands 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 CornynSenate votes to take up infrastructure deal Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on Eight Republicans join Democrats to confirm head of DOJ environmental division 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 RoundsEight Republicans join Democrats to confirm head of DOJ environmental division Bipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor Schumer sets up key vote on bipartisan deal 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.