Republicans in the House and Senate are pushing back against President TrumpDonald TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe MORE's fresh round of attacks on former Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainWhoopi Goldberg signs four-year deal with ABC to stay on 'The View' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Meghan McCain: Country has not 'healed' from Trump under Biden MORE (R-Ariz.), with many defending the late senator's legacy and a couple of lawmakers directly beseeching the president to stop attacking him.
A handful of Republicans offered statements on Wednesday morning and afternoon in defense of McCain, while others were spurred to speak out after the president in the afternoon escalated his criticism of the Arizona Republican, who died of brain cancer seven months ago.
During a White House event meant to focus on manufacturing, Trump chastised McCain over his political record and his ties to a dossier of allegations about the president and Russia. Trump further lamented that he was not properly thanked for his role in approving part of McCain's funeral services.
"I gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted, which as president I had to approve. I don’t care about this. I didn't get 'thank you.' That's OK," Trump told workers at a tank factory during a White House event in Lima, Ohio.
"We sent him on the way, but I wasn’t a fan of John McCain," he added.
Rep. Pete KingPeter (Pete) KingBiden pays homage to Obama by rocking tan suit during birthday week Newsmax anchor Greg Kelly to host New York radio show Top GOP lawmakers call for Swalwell to be removed from Intelligence Committee MORE (R-N.Y.) chimed in a few hours later and tagged the president in a tweet.
"Time for @POTUS Trump to end the shots at John McCain a true patriot, good man and true friend," King said.
Time for @POTUS Trump to end the shots at John McCain a true patriot, good man and true friend.— Rep. Pete King (@RepPeteKing) March 20, 2019
Sen. Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanGOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization More Republicans call on Biden to designate Taliban as terrorist group Overnight Energy: Judge blocks permits for Alaska oil project MORE (R-Alaska), who rarely breaks with the president, offered a lengthier defense of his former colleague while avoiding a direct rebuke of Trump.
"John McCain was a true American hero and a good friend," Sullivan tweeted. "He wasn’t perfect; nobody is. But his decades of service and sacrifice to America were distinguished, unwavering and exemplary. Let’s let him Rest In Peace."
John McCain was a true American hero and a good friend. He wasn’t perfect; nobody is. But his decades of service and sacrifice to America were distinguished, unwavering and exemplary. Let’s let him Rest In Peace.— SenDanSullivan (@SenDanSullivan) March 20, 2019
Trump has long reviled McCain, despite the late senator's revered status in both parties. The president suggested in 2015 that McCain was not a war hero because he was captured during the Vietnam War, and he has repeatedly chided McCain's vote against the repeal of ObamaCare in 2017.
Trump said Wednesday that his latest torrent of criticism was meant to put an end to questions about his disdain for McCain. He had in recent days expressed that he was "never a fan" of the late senator, citing McCain's connections to the dossier and the ObamaCare repeal vote.
Prior to the more personal barbs issued in Ohio, a handful of Republican lawmakers had expressed discomfort with the president targeting their former colleague.
One of the most forceful responses came from Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonCritical race theory becomes focus of midterms Former Georgia ethics official to challenge McBath Loeffler meets with McConnell amid speculation of another Senate run MORE (R-Ga.), who told a Georgia radio station that Trump's criticism of McCain was "deplorable" and showed a "lack of respect" for the Arizona Republican's military service.
Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump pushes back on book claims, says he spent 'virtually no time' discussing election with Lee, Graham The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden meets with lawmakers amid domestic agenda panic The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - House Democrats plagued by Biden agenda troubles MORE (R-S.C.), one of Trump's staunchest allies and previously one of McCain's closest friends, said prior to the Ohio event that the president’s comments "hurt him more than they hurt the legacy of Sen. McCain."
Some senators, however, avoided directly mentioning the president.
Sen. Martha McSallly (R-Ariz.), who was appointed to the seat previously held by McCain, praised him as an "American hero."
"Everyone should give him and his family the respect, admiration, and peace they deserve," she said.
John McCain is an American hero and I am thankful for his life of service and legacy to our country and Arizona. Everyone should give him and his family the respect, admiration, and peace they deserve.— Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Senate passes infrastructure bill, budget resolution; Cuomo resigns Schumer, Tim Scott lead as Senate fundraising pace heats up GOP group launches million ad campaign pressing Kelly on filibuster MORE (@SenMcSallyAZ) March 20, 2019
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse passes standalone bill to provide B for Israel's Iron Dome Pelosi vows to avert government shutdown McConnell calls Trump a 'fading brand' in Woodward-Costa book MORE (R-Ky.) struck a similar tone, praising McCain as a "rare patriot and genuine American hero."
"His memory continues to remind me every day that our nation is sustained by the sacrifices of heroes," he added in a tweet.
McCain's daughter Meghan has hit back at the president after each of his barbs. She shared on Twitter some criticism of Trump's most recent comments, and early Wednesday, while co-hosting ABC's "The View," she said her father would "think it was so hilarious that our president was so jealous of him that he was dominating the news cycle in death."
Democrats were equally sharp in their defense of McCain, with some lawmakers chiding members of the GOP for not condemning the president's specific comments.
"What happened to the decent Republicans who would defend a war hero like John McCain?" Rep. David CicillineDavid CicillineDemocrats seek to cool simmering tensions Hillicon Valley —Apple is not a monopoly, judge rules Judge rules Apple is not 'illegal monopolist' in high-profile Epic case MORE (D-R.I.) tweeted. "Trumpism is going to kill that political party."
Also, what happened to the decent Republicans who would defend a war hero like John McCain? Trumpism is going to kill that political party.— David Cicilline (@davidcicilline) March 20, 2019