Senator John McCain passed away today after a long battle with glioblastoma. He was 81.
McCain's death comes shortly after his family announced that he'd made the decision to discontinue medical treatment.
"Last summer, Senator John McCain shared with Americans the news our family already knew: he had been diagnosed with an aggressive glioblastoma, and the prognosis was serious. In the year since, John has surpassed expectations for his survival. But the progress of disease and the inexorable advance of age render their verdict. With his usual strength of will, he has now chosen to discontinue medical treatment," the veteran senator's family said in a statement, adding:
Our family is immensely grateful for the support and kindness of all his caregivers over the last year, and for the continuing outpouring of concern and affection from John's many friends and associates, and the many thousands of people who are keeping him in their prayers. God bless and thank you all.
McCain's wife, Cindy, and daughter Meghan (a political commentator who is a co-host on The View) posted additional statements on Twitter.
The loss of McCain is felt in every corner of Washington; he was a key voice within the Republican Party and established himself as a powerful voice in the Senate for his ability to negotiate deals in an increasingly partisan environment, often distinguishing himself his push against fossil fuel dependency and for comprehensive bipartisan immigration reform.
McCain, who was criticized for shying away from the latter issue during election years, later earned distinction within the bipartisan Gang of Eight, a group of senators who tried to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2013. The bill passed the House but ultimately failed in the Senate.
McCain ran for president twice. The first time, in 2000, he suspended his campaign and endorsed George W. Bush, who ended up winning the election. In 2008, after announcing he'd run for president again, he selected Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska to be his vice presidential running mate. He would later lose the general election to Barack Obama.
Although McCain was a frequent critic of President Trump, many have noted that he did, despite his opposition, confirm many of the president's Cabinet and judicial appointments.
The relationship between the two men was notoriously contentious and in 2015, Trump, then a presidential candidate, infamously said that McCain, a veteran of the armed forces who was a prisoner-of-war in Vietnam, was "not a war hero."
“He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured," Trump said at the time. McCain, in response, mocked Trump's multiple draft deferments, pointing to wealthy Americans who were able to get out of being drafted into service. McCain has been awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit, a Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his military service.
McCain used his experience as a prisoner-of-war to urge the Senate to reject Gina Haspel’s nomination to be the director of the CIA. The senior senator cited Haspel’s refusal in testimony to acknowledge “torture’s immorality.”
Haspel’s nomination has been controversial. President Trump tapped her for the CIA position, sparking an outcry over her involvement in the George W. Bush administration’s interrogation program after 9/11. Haspel has been criticized for using torture during her career at the CIA and for destroying evidence of such torture. Despite this opposition, Haspel was confirmed anyway.
The White House found itself engulfed in scandal shortly afterward when former White House aide Kelly Sadler made disparaging comments about McCain and his cancer diagnosis. Sadler made headlines after she said that Senator McCain’s opposition to Gina Haspel’s nomination for CIA director because “he’s dying anyway.”
The White House, through a spokesperson, did not dispute the remark. The official said, “We respect Senator McCain’s service to our nation, and he and his family are in our prayers during this difficult time.”
Another White House official said Sadler, who is in charge of surrogate communications, meant it as a joke, “but it fell flat.”
McCain was a staunch supporter of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, and often blasted the president for his warm relationship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
In March, McCain rebuked Trump after Trump confirmed that he spoke with Putin to congratulate him on his recent election victory. Trump issued his remarks only a few days after the White House imposed sanctions on Russia for its meddling in the 2016 presidential election and other “malicious cyberattacks” and after it condemned Russia for its apparent role in a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter on British soil.
“An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections,” McCain said in a statement at the time.
He added: “And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin’s regime.”
McCain’s criticism referred to Sunday’s Russian presidential election results, which secured Putin an expected victory. Official results showed that Putin, who has ruled the country as either president or prime minister since 1999, received 76 percent of the vote. His opponent, Alexei Navalny, was barred from the race. His nearest competitor, millionaire communist Pavel Grudinin, received roughly 12 percent of the vote.
McCain also criticized the president last month after Trump sided with Putin over the assessment from U.S. intelligence agencies that Russian operatives had launched cyber attacks against the United States in its attempt to subvert the 2016 presidential election and undermine American democracy.
McCain said Trump's action was "one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory."
“President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin. He and Putin seemed to be speaking from the same script as the president made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press, and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world," McCain's statement said.