Trump ignored several questions about his thoughts on John McCain’s legacy at a White House press pool Monday, according to Jonathan Karl, an ABC News Chief White House Correspondent.
Karl wrote on Twitter that Trump “heard me” but “did not answer.”
Noah Gray of CNN also tweeted that the president ignored Karl, but added that he ignored the question “three or four times.”
“President Trump was asked if he had “any thoughts on the legacy of John McCain” just now in the oval. “He ignored three or four times.”
President Trump reportedly also rejected sending out a statement praising Sen. John McCain, opting instead to write a short tweet. According to the Washington Post, Trump decided against releasing the statement, despite calls from his senior aides, including press secretary Sarah Sanders and Chief of Staff John Kelly.
The statement would have commended the Arizona Republican Senator for his military service and several decades in the United States Senate. It also would have called him a “hero.” A final draft of the statement was ready for the president’s approval, per the Post.
Instead, Trump told his aides that he’d prefer to just send out a tweet in response to his death, which was short and didn’t offer any specific praise for the Senator’s legacy. The tweet was actually directed at McCain’s family.
“My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!” the president wrote late Saturday.
The tweet accurately portrayed the strained relationship between the two Republicans over the last several years. During Trump’s presidential campaign, they bickered fiercely and often, with Trump going so far as to claim that the Senator wasn’t actually a war hero, referring to McCain’s five year imprisonment during the Vietnam War, when his plane was shot down and he was captured.
“He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured,” Trump said at a campaign event in Iowa in 2015. The comment was not well received, and pundits predicted that Trump’s bid for the White House was sunk.
Before his death, McCain decided against having Trump at his funeral, but made sure to invite former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, who are expected to speak.
Update: August 27, 3:18 p.m.
President Trump did eventually release a statement regarding McCain’s death, stating that he “respected Senator John McCain’s service to our country” and would be providing military transportation of his remains from Arizona to Washington D.C.
He also signed a proclamation to lower government flags to half-staff until the day of his internment. Trump was receiving significant backlash after the White House was spotted with the flag back at full staff, less than two days after news broke of McCain’s death.
The statement also stated that Trump was having General john Kelly, Secretary James Mattis, and Ambassador John Bolton to represent his administration at McCain’s funeral. Vice President Mike Pence will be honoring Senator McCain at the United States Capitol this Friday.