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What’s driving Donald Trump’s feud with John McCain? War record, Obamacare among the themes



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President Donald Trump spoke ill of late Vietnam POW Sen. John McCain to a crowd, which included members of the military.
USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s feud with the late Sen. John McCain dates back many years, to long before the real estate magnate launched a campaign for president.

Trump, who occasionally re-airs his grievances with the late Arizona Republican, launched a new line of attack during an address in Ohio Wednesday, suggesting the McCain family never thanked him for “the kind of funeral that he wanted.” Trump’s role in the services were limited to allowing McCain’s body to fly on planes used as Air Force Two.

How did Trump’s feud with McCain begin? The late senator’s war record was one of Trump’s early complaints and has been a running theme. Here’s a look at the back and forth:

Jan. 11, 2000: Trump, considering a run for president, criticized McCain’s war service as he sized up other potential candidates in an interview on CBS. “He was captured,” Trump said, in remarks he would echo years later. “Does being captured make you a hero? I don’t know. I’m not sure.”

June 30, 2015: McCain tried to distance himself from Trump soon after the real estate magnate entered the 2016 presidential race by suggesting immigrants were “rapists” and drug smugglers. “I just disagree with his comments about the, quote, Mexicans,” the senator told The Arizona Republic in 2015.

July 11, 2015:Trump hammered McCain during a campaign rally in the senator’s home state, saying he was “weak” on immigration. “We have incompetent politicians, not only the president,” Trump said. “I mean, right here, in your own state, you have John McCain.” The audience booed at the mention of McCain’s name.

July 16, 2015: McCain responded to Trump in a piece in The New Yorker. The senator said Trump “fired up the crazies” and Trump responded by calling McCain a “dummy.”

July 18, 2015: Most Americans caught their first glimpse of the feud when Trump, speaking in Iowa, questioned whether McCain was “a war hero because he was captured” in the Vietnam War. Trump, who did not serve in the war, said he liked “people that weren’t captured.” Many political prognosticators predicted the remarks would bring about the undoing of Trump’s campaign.  

Feb. 9, 2016: Trump won the Republican primary in New Hampshire after coming in second in the Iowa caucuses days earlier.

April 19, 2016:McCain announced he would not attend the Republican National Convention in July, where Trump would accept the party’s nomination.

May 5, 2016: McCain was heard telling supporters at a fundraiser that Trump was hurting the GOP brand with Arizona’s Latino electorate, according to audio of his remarks published by Politico.

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May 11, 2016: Trump seemed to backtrack from his original remarks, telling a radio program that: “You know, frankly, I like John McCain, and John McCain is a hero.”

Aug. 1, 2016: McCain blasted Trump amid a scandal over the nominee’s remarks about U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed in action in Iraq in 2004. Trump criticized the fallen solder’s mother, who stood silently by her husband’s side during the Democratic National Convention.

Aug. 5, 2016: Trump reversed course and endorsed McCain. “I hold in the highest esteem Sen. John McCain for his service to our country in uniform and in public office,” Trump said.

Oct. 4, 2016:McCain defended Trump over comments the nominee made about soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder. Trump received criticism for saying some soldiers who return from war are “strong and you can handle it but a lot of people can’t handle it.” Critics said the comment spread the misconception that veterans with PTSD are weak. McCain said the media distorted Trump’s meaning. Trump thanked McCain on Twitter the following day.

Oct. 8, 2016: McCain withdrew support for Trump after a 2005 recording emerged in which Trump discussed kissing women and grabbing them by their genitalia. McCain said the recording made it “impossible to continue to offer even conditional support for his candidacy.”

Jan. 20, 2017:Trump is inaugurated the 45th president of the United States. 

July 19, 2017:McCain’s cancer diagnosis becomes public. Days earlier, before the diagnosis was known but after McCain had undergone surgery to remove a blood clot, Trump said, “We hope John McCain gets better very soon because we miss him.”

July 28, 2017: McCain joins other Republican senators to block the so-called “skinny repeal” of Obamacare, a last-ditch effort to make good on a Trump campaign promise.  

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Sept. 23, 2017: Trump blasts McCain for opposing the GOP attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare, saying McCain was snookered by Democrats.

Oct. 18, 2017: McCain swipes at Trump during a C-SPAN interview, noting that during the Vietnam War “we drafted the lowest income level of America and the highest income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur.” Trump received several draft deferments during the Vietnam War, including one medical deferment for a diagnosed bone spur in his heels, the New York Times reported. 

May 5, 2018: The New York Times reports that McCain’s inner circle informed the White House he doesn’t want Trump to attend his eventual funeral.

June 20, 2018: During a rally in Duluth, Minnesota, Trump blamed McCain for the collapse of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. “We had a gentleman way into the morning hours, go thumbs-down,” Trump said. “He went thumbs-down.” A woman in the crowd reportedly shouted, “He’s a war hero,” but Trump ignored her and changed topics. When McCain voted against the repeal plan in 2017, he gave a thumbs down and said “no,” which drew a gasp from members in the Senate chamber. 

Aug. 25, 2018: McCain dies.  

Aug. 27, 2018: Trump faced a public outcry after raising U.S. flags two days after they had been lowered out of respect for McCain. The American Legion and other veterans groups criticized the move, and the White House quickly lowered the flags again.

Sept. 1, 2018: Honoring McCain’s wishes, Trump does not attend the senator’s funeral at the Washington National Cathedral. Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, attend the service. Meghan McCain later says they were not invited by the family.

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March 17, 2019: Trump tweets, incorrectly, that a court document shows McCain attempted to publicize a dossier alleging misdeeds by Trump before the election. McCain provided the document to the FBI after the election, and there is no evidence he also provided it to the media.   

March 18, 2019: On ABC’s The View, McCain’s daughter, Meghan, slammed Trump’s criticism of her father, saying: “He spends his weekend obsessing over great men because he knows it and I know it and all of you know it: He will never be a great man.”

March 19, 2019: In an Oval Office meeting with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Trump tells reporters he never liked McCain over differences that included Russia and health care. “I was never a fan of John McCain and I never will be,” he said.

March 20, 2019: Trump expanded his attack, suggesting he did not receive a thank you – presumably from McCain’s family – after Trump “gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted.”

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