Senate

GOP senator: McCain is 'partially to blame' for controversy over White House flags

GOP Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.) on Monday said the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is "partially to blame" for the controversy over President Trump's raising and then re-lowering American flags to mark McCain's death.

The White House on Monday afternoon returned its flags to half-staff after facing widespread pushback for restoring them to full-staff less than 48 hours after McCain's death on Saturday.

In response to a question about the flag controversy, Inhofe, who is expected to succeed McCain as the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the former GOP presidential nominee was not "courteous" to Trump.

"Well, you know, frankly, I think that John McCain is partially to blame for that because he is very outspoken," Inhofe told reporters, according to CNN. "He disagreed with the president in certain areas and wasn't too courteous about it."

Inhofe during a floor speech about McCain on Monday referred to him as a "hero."

"We are dealing with a hero when we deal with Senator McCain," Inhofe said. "He wasn't always the most lovable person to be around, but he was a fighter and never shied away from a good fight."

McCain and Trump had a publicly contentious relationship during the final years of the Arizona Republican's life.

Trump reportedly nixed a statement praising McCain following his death, opting instead for a short tweet offered "respect" but not praise for the senator, who died from an aggressive form of brain cancer. However, following immense pressure, Trump released a slightly longer statement on Monday.

"Despite our differences on policy and politics, I respect Senator John McCain's service to our country and, in his honor, have signed a proclamation to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff until the day of his interment," Trump said in a statement released by the White House.

Trump had repeatedly mocked McCain during campaign-style rallies, even as McCain underwent treatment for cancer in Arizona. He took particular issue with McCain's 2017 decision to vote "no" on a bill that would have largely repealed ObamaCare.

Trump, in widely criticized remarks from shortly after he launched his presidential bid, insisted McCain was "not a war hero" because he was captured and held as a prisoner of war in Vietnam for more than five years.

"He's a war hero because he was captured," Trump said in 2015. "I like people that weren't captured."

McCain, who reportedly reserved his harshest criticisms of Trump for private conversations, occasionally spoke out against the president's conduct.

The senator made one of his most scathing statements about Trump after the president's summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in July, during which Trump downplayed Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

"The damage inflicted by President Trump's naivete, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake," McCain said at the time.

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