President Donald Trump’s allies went on the counterattack Saturday after tributes to the late Sen. John McCain took pointed aim at the president.
As Washington mourned McCain, Trump’s people grew angry. Some even hoped for — but didn’t get — a blistering tweet from the president. And they privately chastised Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, for attending the senator’s memorial service.
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“@realDonaldTrump ran for @POTUS ONE time and WON,” tweeted Katrina Pierson, an adviser to Trump’s campaign. “Some people will never recover from that.”
McCain’s service was, on one level, a return to old Washington civility, with Republicans and Democrats, past presidents, friends and foes gathered in unity. But as its tributes echoed with overt criticism of the president, it only deepened the hostility between the city’s establishment and the outsider in the White House.
Early Saturday morning, mourners were preparing to gather at Washington National Cathedral for the solemn event. But for Trump, at the White House just a few miles away, the day began like any other. He started tweeting just before 7:30 a.m. with a shot at the “tainted and corrupt” news media and a gripe about Canada, the country’s biggest trading partner.
As McCain’s casket was being carried from the Capitol, Trump tweeted again, taking aim at FBI and Justice Department “corruption”.
The cathedral was full by 9:30 a.m., when McCain’s casket was carried in. That’s when Trump turned his attention to the “police state” behind the Russia investigation.
Then the president went golfing.
His friends and allies fumed. Trump had endured a week of criticism for his handling of McCain’s death, but the eulogy from the late senator’s daughter, Meghan, was the last straw, according to three people close to the White House.
“We gather to mourn the passing of American greatness, the real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice, those that live lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served,” Meghan McCain said. “The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great.”
While Trump allies often quietly hope the president tones down his Twitter commentary, Saturday was different. The service and week of remembrances were unfair to the president, they said, and they hoped for an online eruption.
Trump has a long list of grievances against the late senator. McCain played a key role in passing along a dossier to the FBI that detailed alleged ties between Trump and Russia. He cast the deciding vote against Republican legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, denying Trump the chance to deliver on a campaign promise.
When McCain’s family announced that the senator would be suspending medical care, Trump remained silent while others sent final respects. And the president took heat for raising the White House flag to full staff two days after the senator’s death.
On Saturday, Trump’s allies groused about Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s presence at an event that portrayed the president in such a negative light, with one person calling their attendance a “huge mistake.” Another complained that they had been seated too far back in the church.
“It was a very nice gesture by Jared and Ivanka to attend,” said Sam Nunberg. “I find it contemptible that the McCain family couldn’t seat them in a better, more respectable section.”
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
McCain’s memorial had ended by the time Trump left the golf course Saturday afternoon. As the president’s motorcade pulled out of the entrance to the Trump National Golf Club, it passed a clutch of shouting protesters with yellow baby-Trump balloons and a sign that captured the mood: “You, Trump, are no John McCain.”
As the day drew to a close, Trump tweeted a parting shot.
“MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
Annie Karni and Nolan D. McCaskill contributed to this report