In his latest attack on John McCain, President Donald Trump accused the late senator of misleading the White House about his vote on a GOP effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017 after spending years campaigning on repealing it.
Facts First: Trump falsely accused McCain of misleading the White House over his intention to vote on the GOP drafted bill to repeal Obamacare – but McCain on several occasions publicly expressed his opposition prior to the vote. McCain did, however, campaign on repealing it.
McCain’s actions in the days, and even the hours leading up to his dramatic decision to come down against the Republican attempt to undo the law known as Obamacare, call into question Trump’s version of events leading up to the vote.
Speaking in the Oval Office with reporters on Tuesday, Trump said McCain “told us, hours before, that he was going to repeal and replace.”
Trump noted McCain’s no vote came after “he campaigned on repealing and replacing Obamacare for years,” which is true.
“I was never a fan of John McCain and I never will be,” Trump added about McCain who died after a long battle with cancer last August.
A former McCain aide said Trump lied about the senator’s actions. “Nope. Never happened,” the former aide said. “You’re surprised Trump lied?”
The aide pointed to McCain’s speech on the Senate floor on July 25, 2017, when the senator railed against the process in the Republican-led chamber that produced the final version of the GOP “repeal and replace” measure.
“I voted for the motion to proceed to allow debate to continue and amendments to be offered. I will not vote for the bill as it is today. It’s a shell of a bill right now. We all know that,” McCain said in his remarks. Two days later, McCain gave the bill a “thumbs down,” handing Democrats a victory and infuriating White House aides.
A White House official disputed the former McCain aide’s recollection of events, but declined to elaborate, remarking that doing so would keep the feud going.
McCain had kept the Capitol waiting in suspense in the hours leading up to the final vote on the so-called “skinny” repeal and replace legislation which came two days later.
McCain was always undecided, and had been a loud critic of the GOP leadership’s secretive and rushed approach to drafting the bill. The details of the GOP repeal bill were unclear even up until the day of the vote because they were constantly tinkering to see what would actually be able to pass.
“I am not supportive of the legislation as it stands today,” McCain said during a July 27 news conference.
Signs of McCain’s opposition continued. At 11:00 p.m., he cryptically told reporters to “wait for the show” as he went to the Senate floor instead of answering how he had decided to vote.
Republican leaders were also aware of McCain’s intentions before the vote, working to change his mind. Reporters watched as McCain had lengthy conversations with a number of his colleagues as well as Vice President Mike Pence on the Senate floor. McCain never appeared to budge.
For years, Trump has belittled the former Vietnam War POW and 2008 Republican presidential nominee, once remarking to an audience in July 2015 that he likes “people that weren’t captured.” Trump has never apologized for the comment.
“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”
Trump’s attack on McCain in 2015 drew widespread condemnation from leading GOP figures, a sharp contrast with the muted criticism the President now receives for his continued attacks on the late senator.
During the Vietnam War, McCain was imprisoned for five and a half years in the Hoa Lo Prison in Hanoi, the facility dubbed by US soldiers as the “Hanoi Hilton,” where he was beaten and tortured.
Trump has traveled to Hanoi twice as President but has yet to visit the infamous prison, which is now a museum that features photographs of McCain while he was held in captivity.