WASHINGTON — The White House issued well-wishes to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in response to an administration official joking about his brain cancer being terminal, thus not dooming one of President Trump’s nominees.
McCain, who has remained in Arizona after last month undergoing an operation to treat an intestinal infection related to diverticulitis, issued a statement Wednesday encouraging colleagues to oppose the nomination of longtime CIA operative Gina Haspel to be the agency’s director.
“I believe Gina Haspel is a patriot who loves our country and has devoted her professional life to its service and defense,” McCain said. “However, Ms. Haspel’s role in overseeing the use of torture by Americans is disturbing. Her refusal to acknowledge torture’s immorality is disqualifying. I believe the Senate should exercise its duty of advice and consent and reject this nomination.”
The White House has been strategizing on how to move Haspel’s nomination forward as opposition comes from other corners as well, such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Many Republican senators say they are still undecided.
At a meeting of administration and congressional communications staffers today, The Hill first reported, special assistant Kelly Sadler, whose role has included helming a PR effort highlighting crimes committed by immigrants, commented on McCain’s opposition to the Haspel nomination. “It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway,” Sadler said, according to Hill sources.
There was reportedly “discomfort” in the room after her comment.
“We respect Senator McCain’s service to our nation and he and his family are in our prayers during this difficult time,” the White House said in a statement, not attributed to any individual, in response to the report.
Sadler reportedly called Meghan McCain to apologize for the remark. Cindy McCain tweeted at Sadler this evening, “May I remind you my husband has a family, 7 children and 5 grandchildren.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), McCain’s best friend in Congress, said, “Ms. Sadler, may I remind you that John McCain has a lot of friends in the United States Senate on both sides of the aisle. Nobody is laughing in the Senate.”
Graham spent time with McCain in Arizona earlier this week, and said he was “pleasantly surprised” by his friend’s condition.
“Don’t believe what you read in the paper. I was concerned when I went, I’m thinking now about my next trip. No talking about funerals, we’re not at 2022 yet,” Graham said, referring to the expiration year of McCain’s term. “He’s got a healthy appetite, healthy sense of humor, he’s stabilizing. Great visit. We laughed, cried, we watched movies.”