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McCain's daughter slams White House aide's 'he's dying' comments

By Justin Mitchell

May 14. 2018 12:55AM
John McCain gestures to supporters at the Crowne Plaza Nashua on Jan. 8, 2008, after he won the New Hampshire Primary. (BRUCE TAYLOR/UNION LEADER FILE)

WASHINGTON — Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain’s daughter, Meghan McCain, on Friday questioned how the aide who disparaged her ailing father during a White House meeting still has a job there.

Kelly Sadler, a White House communications aide, dismissed Senator McCain’s objection to President Donald Trump’s nominee to be CIA director, Gina Haspel, by saying it “doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway,” a source familiar with the closed White House meeting told Reuters.

Speaking on ABC’s “The View,” which she co-hosts, Meghan McCain said she wanted to inform Sadler that her father’s battle with brain cancer has made her realize the meaning of life was “not how you die, it is how you live.”

“I don’t understand what kind of environment you’re working in when that would be acceptable, and then you can come to work the next day and still have a job,” she said.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said later on Friday that Sadler still works at the White House, and refused to confirm or deny what Sadler had said.

“I’m not going to validate a leak out of an internal staff meeting one way or the other,” Sanders said.

John McCain, who has spent the last several weeks convalescing at his home in Arizona as he battles brain cancer, released a statement after Haspel’s Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday, slamming her for refusing to condemn torture. He recommended his fellow senators vote against her.

McCain is not expected to return to Washington to cast a vote on her nomination.

McCain was tortured as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, sustaining injuries from which he has never completely recovered.

Several of McCain’s fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill condemned Sadler’s remarks.

Jeff Flake, Arizona’s other senator and a frequent critic of the White House under Trump, tweeted an article about the comments and wrote: “There are no words.”

Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa tweeted that the United States should “treat this war hero and his family with the civility and respect they deserve.”

Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden, a longtime Senate colleague and friend of McCain, said in a statement: “People have wondered when decency would hit rock bottom with this administration. It happened yesterday.”

Meghan McCain thanked the public for its support. “My father’s legacy is going to be talked about for hundreds and hundreds of years,” she said. “These people — nothing burgers.”

McCain was the Republican Party’s presidential candidate in 2008. He has been a frequent and sharp critic of Trump, a fellow Republican. At an election campaign appearance in 2015, Trump responded to criticism from McCain by denigrating the former Navy flier’s military service.

“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

Sadler’s comments were reported the same day that a guest on Fox Business Network, retired Air Force Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney, suggested McCain divulged critical information to the North Vietnamese after being tortured. He did not elaborate or provide evidence to back up his claim.

A network spokesperson said McInerney would no longer be invited to appear on the Fox Business Network or Fox News. 

Colleague and friend Graham voices criticism

A top Republican has also urged the White House to speak out against Sadler, but stopped short of calling on Trump to apologize.

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close friend of McCain, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” program in an interview to be aired on Sunday that he was not satisfied with the White House’s response to the controversy surrounding Sadler.

“It’s (a) pretty disgusting thing to say, if it was a joke, it was a terrible joke,” Graham said. “I just wish somebody from the White House would tell the country that was inappropriate, that’s not who we are in the Trump administration.

“And I think most Americans would like to see the Trump administration do better in situations like this,” said Graham. “It doesn’t hurt you at all to do the right thing and to be big.”

Asked if Trump himself should apologize for Sadler’s comments, Graham said, “I’ll leave that up to him, but if something happened like that in my office — somebody in my office said ... such a thing about somebody, I would apologize on behalf of the office.” 


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