President Donald Trump on Saturday lashed out against an old nemesis, the late Sen. John McCain, for his crucial vote against repealing Obamacare in 2017.
Trump chastised McCain for his no vote on a bare-bones repeal of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare legislation, wrongly describing it as a "thumbs down on repeal and replace after years of campaigning to repeal and replace!"
The legislation opposed by McCain did not have a replacement component.
Responding to reports in conservative media outlets that cite court documents that say a former aide to the Republican senator from Arizona was the source of a leak that put a Trump opposition-research dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele into the hands of multiple media outlets in late 2016, the president echoed former independent counsel Kenneth Starr's remarks on Fox News.
The reports about the source of the leaks have not been confirmed by NBC News.
The dossier alleges the Trump campaign worked with the Russian government to defeat rival Hillary Clinton in 2016. The core allegations in the dossier compose the heart of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian influence on the presidential election.
"The more we find out the uglier it becomes," Starr, referring to the alleged media leaks of the dossier, said recently on Fox News' "Fox & Friends." "The Steele dossier I think has been very substantially discredited."
Starr said of McCain, "I think he was an American hero. But I’m very sorry he got implicated in this in terms of spreading this very nasty stuff around."
The reports that McCain leaked the 35-page dossier, which was originally the product of funding by a conservative publication, are "unfortunately a very dark stain" on the former senator's record, Starr said.
In December former U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg said on MSNBC that "the dossier holds up well. None of it has been disproven."
Starr, a Republican, headed the investigation that led to the impeachment of President Clinton for lying about having sex with White House staffer Monica Lewinsky.
Trump lashed out at McCain again on Sunday, claiming McCain sent the dossier to the FBI and the media. McCain gave a version of the dossier to the FBI in December of 2016, after the presidential election, and asked if any of it was true, but he had denied being a source of the document for BuzzFeed, which published it in January of 2017.
McCain's daughter, Meghan McCain, responded to Trump via Twitter Saturday:
"No one will ever love you the way they loved my father.... I wish I had been given more Saturday’s with him. Maybe spend yours with your family instead of on twitter obsessing over mine?"
Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said Sunday on ABC's "This Week" that Trump's continued attacks on McCain are "regrettable and something for which he should apologize."
"I've long thought that his personal and direct attacks on Senator McCain was one of the most detestable things about President Trump's conduct as a candidate," Coons said. "Senator McCain conveyed that report out of a sense of duty, and he is someone who lived his entire life with a sense of honor and duty to our country."
Trump has lashed out at McCain several times, but this appears to be the first time he's criticized the former senator on Twitter in the months following his Aug. 25 death from an aggressive brain tumor. He was 81.
"He's not a war hero," Trump said of McCain at a campaign event in Iowa in 2015. "He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured."
McCain volunteered to fight in Vietnam and, when the plane he was flying was shot down in 1967, he was captured and, for more than five years, tortured. He refused an early release and only saw freedom in 1973 as the war ended.
The Obamacare vote was a bitter loss for Trump as three Republicans allied with Democrats to defeat the repeal effort.