Did Trump simply joke about John McCain’s demise?

President Trump alluded Wednesday to his former Senate Republican critics having gone on to “greener pastures — or maybe far much less inexperienced pastures.” And given his historical past with the late senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), it wasn’t troublesome to conclude that he was referring to one thing wholly inappropriate.

However was he?

First, right here’s Trump’s full quote, from an look on the Religion and Freedom Coalition: “We wanted 60 votes, and we had 51 votes. And typically, , we had just a little onerous time with a few them, proper? Luckily, they’re gone now. They’ve gone on to greener pastures — or maybe far much less inexperienced pastures. However they’re gone. They’re gone, Invoice. I’m very blissful they’re gone.”

CNN’s Daniel Dale, one of many preeminent Trump fact-checkers, cautioned towards assuming that the president was speaking about McCain, noting that Trump has sometimes instructed that his critics have paid an expert value — together with with their post-Senate careers.

It is a legitimate level. Again in January, Trump instructed that former senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) was working into hassle after a retirement he admitted was because of his Trump criticisms making it onerous to win renomination in Trump’s GOP. “So Jeff Flake is now promoting actual property, or no matter he’s doing,” Trump mentioned. “He’ll in all probability go to work for CNN. That’s my prediction.”

Trump additionally instructed on the time that former senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) forfeited a protected Senate seat, although he didn’t so instantly check with his post-Senate employment. “Bob Corker was going to be a senator for an additional 20 years,” Trump mentioned. “After which, for some purpose, he hit me as a result of he thought it was going to be good publicity. It didn’t work out too properly.”

Past Flake and Corker, about the one senators this remark may have referenced can be McCain and former senator Dean Heller (R-Nev.). Heller is one other Senate Republican whom Trump has accused of being insufficiently supportive of his agenda and paying a value for it. Trump additionally instructed the Las Vegas Evaluate-Journal that he didn’t nominate Heller for inside secretary as a result of Heller declined to say whether or not he had voted for Trump in 2016 — one other doable allusion to his former critics discovering employment harder after leaving the Senate.

It’s additionally essential to notice Trump’s observe document right here. Since McCain’s demise, Trump has often mentioned he wasn’t a fan of McCain’s, attacked a ebook he wrote (it “bombed”), claimed the McCain household didn’t thank him for his state funeral, instructed that those that tried to obscure the usJohn S. McCain (named for McCain’s father) from view throughout his occasion had good intentions, and that there had been “stains” on his document. All of this, after all, comes after Trump instructed in 2016 that McCain wasn’t a struggle hero.

Trump has a behavior of utilizing believable deniability to his benefit. He usually walks proper as much as the sting of claiming one thing extraordinarily offensive with out instantly saying it, after which permits his supporters to attach the dots. Then, when his critics join those self same dots, he claims victimhood.

It’s unimaginable to say with certainty that Trump’s remark was about McCain, however it’s hardly far-fetched. And it appears fairly doable it’s the impression he meant to go away and the controversy he needed.

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