Sarah Sanders calls McCain an ‘American Hero’ as buzz ramps up on Trump’s reluctance to give praise

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders “absolutely” plans to attend the funeral of Sen. John McCain but would not say the same for President Trump.

Sanders was asked about the late Arizona Republican as she left Reagan National Airport on Sunday.

Responding to a TMZ reporter who caught up with her as she walked out of the airport, Sanders called the death of McCain Saturday after a battle with brain cancer a “great loss for our country.”

When asked about Trump attending the senator’s funeral, Sanders replied, “I’ll keep you posted.”

She did, however, say she would “absolutely” be personally attending the funeral as she called McCain an “American hero.”

The president sent his “deepest sympathies and respect” to McCain’s family in a tweet Saturday night.

Trump had a contentious relationship with the 81-year-old Vietnam War POW, with the two at odds as far back as 2015 when Trump said McCain was not a “war hero” because he had been captured in Vietnam. The senator, who  represented Arizona in Congress for 35 years, was a vocal critic of the president’s and reportedly had asked that Trump not be invited to his funeral.

The president allegedly did not want an official statement from the White House to go out on news of McCain’s death, according to a Washington Post report:

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and other White House aides advocated for an official statement that gave the decorated Vietnam War POW plaudits for his military and Senate service and called him a “hero,” according to current and former White House aides, who requested anonymity to discuss sensitive internal deliberations. The original statement was drafted before McCain died Saturday, and Sanders and others edited a final version this weekend that was ready for the president, the aides said.

But Trump told aides he wanted to post a brief tweet instead, and the statement praising McCain’s life was not released.

Vice President Mike Pence is expected to attend the services and former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have been asked to speak, according to The New York Times.

McCain, who served for two decades in the Navy, will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda before receiving a full dress funeral service at the Washington National Cathedra. He will also lie in state at the Arizona Capitol before being buried in Annapolis, Md.

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Frieda Powers

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