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President Trump, the Obamas, the Clintons and More React to John McCain’s Death

The senator from Arizona served in Congress for 35 years and is receiving a bipartisan outpouring of support

Sen. John McCain and Jon Stewart

John McCain died Saturday afternoon at his ranch in Sedona, Arizona. He was 81. The longtime senator from Arizona had been battling glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, for over a year, and his death came a day after his family told the media they had decided to discontinue medical treatment. Shortly after McCain’s office announced his death, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed their sympathies for the six-term senator.

Chief among the heartfelt responses was the one from Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who had represented Arizona alongside McCain since 2013. “I couldn’t bring myself to write this piece until today,” Flake began in an op-ed for the Washington Post. He described how important McCain’s example was to Flake’s career in politics, from when he was first struggling with policy decisions in the House of Representatives to just a few months ago, when he visited McCain at his ranch in Sedona. “He showed us who we are and who we can be when we are at our best,” Flake wrote. “And he devoted his life to service and to the exalted idea of America that was bigger and better than him. Bigger than us all. His fidelity to that idea, and his idealism in balancing fierce political battles with a determination to always see the good and find the humanity in his opponents is an example that transcended politics and made him the man that he was.”

Flake is retiring from the Senate this year and the primary to determine which Republican will vie to replace him takes place on Tuesday. One of the candidates, Kelli Ward, wondered on Facebook whether the McCain family’s announcement was a ploy to distract attention from her campaign. “I think they wanted to have a particular narrative that they hope is negative to me,” she wrote. Another candidate, Joe Arpaio, the criminal sheriff whom President Trump pardoned last year, attacked Cindy McCain on Twitter Friday night. “I tweeted out my thoughts & prayers for @SenJohnMcCain and @cindymccain BLOCKS me on twitter?” he tweeted, tagging President Trump. Both Ward and Arpaio are running for the seat on the strength of their devotion to Trump. Their other opponent, Rep. Martha McSally, was more tactful. “John McCain was one of Arizona’s greatest Senators, one of our country’s finest statesmen, and an American hero who risked his life to defend this great nation,” she tweeted. “He loved this state, and he loved this country.”

In addition to Flake, several other high-profile Senate Republicans offered tributes.

The praise from Senate Democrats was no less effusive. “John McCain and I disagreed on many things, and sometimes quite forcefully,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wrote as part of several tweets honoring McCain. “But even when we disagreed, I always respected that his heart was focused on doing what he thought was best for the American people.”

Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) released a statement honoring McCain’s “principled, independent leadership and the trust and respect he’s earned over decades,” both as a member of the armed services and in Congress. “I have rarely met someone who cared so deeply, sacrificed so much, and represented the best of the United States of America like John McCain,” he wrote. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) released a statement, as well. “We lost a hero at a time when we need them,” he wrote. “We lost a statesman when there are so few around. His was a life of service and a life well lived. May his memory be a blessing.” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) wrote, “With love and respect, I mark the passing of a great man, and I will miss him dearly. My heart goes out to Cindy and the entire McCain family.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), proposed renaming the Russell Senate Office Building after McCain.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi concurred with her counterpart in the Senate.

House Speaker Paul Ryan released a statement calling McCain “one of the most courageous men of the century.”

“This is a sad day for the United States,” Ryan wrote. “Our country has lost a decorated war hero and statesman. John McCain was a giant of our time — not just for the things he achieved, but for who he was and what he fought for all his life. John put principle before politics. He put country before self. He was one of the most courageous men of the century. He will always be listed among freedom’s most gallant and faithful servants. Our hearts are with his wife, Cindy, his children, and his grandchildren. This Congress, this country mourn with them.”

Mitt Romney, the former Republican presidential nominee who is currently running for a Senate seat in Utah, similarly praised McCain’s “integrity, duty, courage and character.”

John Kerry, a Vietnam veteran who also served alongside McCain in the Senate for over 25 years, released a statement praising McCain’s drive to “find common ground even when it was improbable.”

Kerry lost his campaign for the presidency to George W. Bush in 2004, four years before McCain would lose to Barack Obama. The two men who led the country from 2000-2016 offered their condolences Saturday night.

Bill and Hillary Clinton released a joint statement as well, echoing McCain’s heroism:

The current president, who consistently attacked McCain even as he was battling cancer, wasn’t quite so sincere. After it was announced Friday that McCain was discontinuing his medical treatment, the White House noted that Trump did not plan to comment on McCain’s condition while he was still alive. Stumping in Ohio on Saturday, Trump did not mention the senator’s condition despite speaking for nearly an hour. After McCain’s death was announced, Trump tweeted his “deepest sympathies” for McCain’s family, but did not commend the late senator.

On Sunday morning, Trump resumed tweeting about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Andy Kroll contributed to this report.

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