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White House official who mocked McCain’s health still employed

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. listens to a reporter's question before a policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

PHOENIX — The White House has doubled down on its defense of an official who reportedly mocked U.S. Sen. John McCain during an internal meeting last week.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Friday she would not comment on an internal staff meeting, but said that Kelly Sadler, the aide in question, remains a White House staffer.

Sadler, a special assistant, allegedly said “it doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway” in response to McCain’s opposition to Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s nominee for CIA director.

The comment was reportedly made during an internal meeting on Thursday.

Sanders told staffers later Friday that the comment was inappropriate but shouldn’t have been leaked to the media.

Sanders said the leak was selfish and distracted from the president’s agenda and “everything we’re trying to accomplish for the American people,” according to a person familiar with the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the private meeting.

She noted that it garnered attention following the president’s welcoming home of three Americans detained in North Korea and an upcoming summit with Kim Jong Un in Singapore.

The White House did not deny the remark after it was first reported, but said in a statement that they “respect Senator McCain’s service to our nation and he and his family are in our prayers during this difficult time.”

Some lawmakers condemn comment, others stay silent

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) decried the comment during CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, saying it was beyond his comprehension that the White House has not apologized.

“It is one thing in the White House for somebody to say something crude and stupid and disrespectful about an American hero, it is another thing for them not to apologize,” he said.

“It is beyond my comprehension. I just don’t know what goes on in that White House mentality for there not being an apology for that terrible remark.”

Former Massachusetts governor and U.S. Senate candidate Mitt Romney also tweeted about the remarks.

John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, praised McCain for his past support when Bolton was vying to become an ambassador to the United Nations but refused to apologize on behalf of the White House.

“He did it because he thought I was being treated unfairly,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

“I’ll never forget it, I’ll be grateful forever, and I wish John McCain and his family nothing but the best.”

McCain, a 81-year-old former Navy pilot, has been fighting cancer since he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer, in July 2017.

The typical survival period after a diagnosis is 12 to 15 months, though a small percentage live longer than five years.

McCain recently underwent surgery at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix to treat an intestinal infection related to diverticulitis.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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