- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 13, 2018

A White House aide’s remark last week that Sen. John McCain’s political positions don’t matter because he’s near death was “disgusting” and the White House should issue an apology, Sen. Lindsey Graham told CBS News in an interview that aired Sunday morning.

The South Carolina Republican, a longtime friend and Senate ally of Mr. McCain, told the “Face the Nation” program on CBS that the Trump administration could do itself a favor by issuing a formal apology to the McCain family.

“It’s a pretty disgusting thing to say. If it was a joke, it was a terrible joke. 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,” Mr. Graham said.

The remark reportedly came from White House communications aide Kelly Sadler in response to Mr. McCain saying he’d vote against Gina Haspel, the president’s pick to head the CIA. The aide said Mr. McCain’s vote doesn’t matter because he’s “dying anyway.”

The remark by Ms. Sadler, a former editorial page employee at The Washington Times, was first reported by The Hill, citing sources in the closed-door meeting.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders would not comment on the matter at Friday’s daily White House briefing, saying “I’m not going to validate a leak one way or another out of an internal staff meeting.”

According to The Associated Press, Mrs. Sanders told staffers at a Friday meeting that the remark was inappropriate but said the leaker should not have told the media.

The leak was selfish and distracted from “everything we’re trying to accomplish for the American people,” the AP reported, citing “a person familiar with the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity.”

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney spoke similarly over the weekend, telling Fox News that the comments should be taken in context.

“This was a private meeting inside the White House,” he said. “It was a joke — a badly considered joke, an awful joke that she said fell flat.”

But Mr. Graham said that regardless of whether it was a private meeting, the White House should issue an apology.

John McCain can be criticized for any political decision he’s ever made, or any vote he’s ever cast, but he’s an American hero,” he said. “And I think most Americans would like to see the Trump administration do better in situations like this. It doesn’t hurt you at all to do the right thing and to be big.”

A former Trump adviser also pushed back against such criticism Sunday, saying Mr. McCain isn’t immune to politicking and has consistently been a thorn in the White House’s side since Mr. Trump came to power.

Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union program, Michael Caputo, who served as a communications adviser to Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, conceded that the comment about Mr. McCain’s death “was a joke made in bad taste.”

But he also said the notion the White House is not out of line for criticizing Mr. McCain, citing the longtime maxim “politics ain’t bean bag,”

McCain has for the longest time been a combative senator. He’s worked very hard against this president. He’s done things to undermine this president,” Mr. Caputo said.

“You have to understand that not everybody on this planet loves John McCain. But at this point in time we all need to step back and let his family and the senator live in peace.”

Among other clashes with the administration, Mr. McCain cast the deciding vote last year to kill a White House-backed plan to repeal Obamacare.

Mr. McCain, 81, was diagnosed in July with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer. He underwent surgery last month for an infection and has not cast a vote since.

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