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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 1: Cindy McCain looks on as a joint military service casket team carries the casket of the late Senator John McCain following his funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral, September 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. Former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush delivered eulogies for McCain in front of the 2,500 invited guests. McCain will be buried on Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 1: Cindy McCain looks on as a joint military service casket team carries the casket of the late Senator John McCain following his funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral, September 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. Former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush delivered eulogies for McCain in front of the 2,500 invited guests. McCain will be buried on Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. will brief the media on Tuesday, Aug. 28, at 10 a.m. EDT, in the Pentagon Briefing Room (2E973).  DAILY SCHEDULE: Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. brief the media at 10 a.m. EDT in the Pentagon Briefing Room (2E973). Both U.S. and foreign journalists without a Pentagon building pass must be pre-registered in the new Pentagon Visitor Management System to attend this briefing; plan on being escorted from the River Entrance Pedestrian Bridge or the Pentagon Metro Entrance Facility only. Please arrive no later than 45 minutes before the briefing; have proof of affiliation and photo identification. Please call 703-697-5131 for any questions and escort into the building. The briefing will also be streamed live on www.defense.gov/live.  Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis hosts an enhanced honor cordon welcoming Minister of Defense Ryamizard Ryacudu of Indonesia, to the Pentagon at 2:30 p.m. EDT on the steps of the River Entrance. All journalists desiring to cover the cordon must obtain a wristband from security screening. Journalists without a Pentagon facility access card must go through security screening at the base of the River Entrance Pedestrian Bridge, and will be escorted to the cordon from there. Security screening will begin at approximately 1:45 p.m. EDT; have proof of affiliation and two forms of photo identification. Journalists with a Pentagon facility access card, and whom have entered the building prior to 1:30 p.m. EDT, may go through security screening at the River Entrance to obtain their wristband. All journalists wishing to cover the honor cordon, including those with a Pentagon facility access card, must be in place no later than 2:15 p.m. EDT. Once security screening has been initiated at the base of the bridge, all journalists entering the building via the bridge for any reason, including those with a Pen
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Story highlights

McCain has sharp critiques of the President

McCain hasn't personally thwarted any elements of Trump's agenda, yet

(CNN) —  

Now that he has returned to the Senate for another six years, Sen. John McCain is back to being a president’s biggest headache on Capitol Hill.

The Arizona Republican bashed President Donald Trump’s White House as an “administration in disarray” while attending a security conference in Munich. Then, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” he blasted Trump’s attacks on the media, saying “the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press.”

The sharp critiques of the President come as McCain sheds his campaign-trail reluctance to criticize Trump – or even say the then-Republican nominee’s name.

McCain, who was the party’s nominee himself in 2008, has long been comfortable on the bad side of presidents. The Armed Services Committee chairman trashed George W. Bush’s tenure over his handling of the Gulf War and the mounting national debt and constantly accused President Barack Obama of weak leadership abroad.

“I’m the one that said Ronald Reagan shouldn’t send Marines to Afghanistan,” McCain told CNN in early February. “I’m the one that said Donald Rumsfeld should be fired. I’ve said the general in Afghanistan should be fired. Look, I have done what I have done right for this country under Republican and Democrat presidents. I will continue to do so. This is not a departure from the way I’ve conducted myself in the United States Senate.”

Trump made clear he viewed McCain as an opponent in 2015, when he belittled the senator’s five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam by questioning McCain’s “war hero” status, saying, “I like people who don’t get captured.”

McCain’s response was muted. He skipped the Republican National Convention but continued to say he’d support the Republican nominee – at least, up until the emergence of the “Access Hollywood” video in which Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women.

But since McCain won re-election, that’s all changed.

In Munich on Friday, McCain fretted about “the growing inability, and even unwillingness, to separate truth from lies” – a clear shot at Trump, who has espoused falsehoods about crowd size, voter fraud and more.

Trump sometimes “contradicts himself,” McCain said, adding, “So we’ve learned to watch what the president does as opposed to what he says.”

On Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” McCain joked that he hates the press, and host Chuck Todd “especially,” but defended the role of journalists in society when asked about Trump’s tweet Friday that the “fake news media … is the enemy of the American people” and similar remarks he made at a rally the following evening in Florida.

“If you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and, many times, adversarial press,” McCain said. “And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.”

“They get started by suppressing free press,” McCain continued. “In other words, a consolidation of power. When you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press. And I’m not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I’m just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.”

It’s not the first time McCain has slammed Trump’s presidency.

He hammered Trump over a reportedly contentious phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, called Trump’s travel ban a “self-inflicted wound in the fight against terror,” and said the President’s first major military decision – a raid in Yemen that, in addition to killing more than a dozen al Qaeda fighters, left a US Navy SEAL, and 8-year-old girl and nearly two dozen civilians dead – couldn’t be qualified as a success.

Still, McCain hasn’t personally thwarted any elements of Trump’s agenda, yet.

While McCain, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio cast the fate of Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, into doubt, McCain has only voted against one Trump nominee, budget director Mick Mulvaney. And Mulvaney was confirmed anyway.

And at times, McCain has heaped praise on Trump, showing the limits of his intra-party criticism and underscoring why Democrats can’t count on the senator to consistently undermine the President.

In a statement Monday afternoon, McCain called Trump’s choice of Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster to replace Michael Flynn as national security adviser an “outstanding choice” and heaped praise on Trump’s entire national security team.

“I give President Trump great credit for this decision, as well as his national security Cabinet choices. I could not imagine a better, more capable national security team than the one we have right now,” McCain said.

CNN’s Tom LoBianco contributed to this report.