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Whoever smears McCain 'deserves a whipping,' Isakson tells Trump

US President Donald Trump (left) and Republican Senator John McCain, who died on Saturday at the age of 81.

Republican Senator Johnny Isakson has warned US President Donald Trump against speaking negatively about Senator John McCain, who died on Saturday at the age of 81. He was known for backing US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as supporting terrorists operating in Syria.

"I don't know what's going to be said in the next few days about John McCain ... but anybody who in any way tarnishes the reputation of John McCain deserves a whipping, because most of the ones who would do the wrong thing about John McCain didn't have the guts to do the right thing when it was their turn," Isakson said from the Senate floor on Monday.

He added that he would convey "to the president or anybody in the world, it's time to pause and say this was a great man. He gave everything for us. We owe him nothing less than the respect that he earned."

McCain of Arizona had been battling an aggressive form of brain cancer for more than a year. He was diagnosed with brain cancer in July 2017.

McCain had represented the state of Arizona in both chambers of Congress for 35 years. He also ran unsuccessfully for the White House twice in 2000 and 2008.

He had been an outspoken Republican critic of Trump, which led to a running feud between them. The McCain-Trump relationship grew tense in 2015 when McCain said Trump’s presidential candidacy had “fired up the crazies.”

Subsequently, Trump said that McCain, who survived at a prison camp during the Vietnam War, was “not a war hero.”

"He's not a war hero. He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured," he said in July 2015 at a conference in Ames, Iowa, while running for the White House.

McCain became a fighter pilot during the Vietnam War, where he had bombed countless innocent Vietnam civilians to death. He was taken prisoner by north Vietnamese soldiers after being shot down during a bombing raid over Hanoi. He was held in captivity for nearly six years.

McCain formed a strong bond with his fellow Republican Senator Lindsey Graham over their hawkish foreign policy.

In an appearance in South Carolina during his 2008 presidential campaign, he responded to an audience question about military action against Iran by saying “[have you heard of] that old Beach Boys song, 'Bomb Iran'."

Trump on Saturday sent a tweet expressing sympathy for McCain's family but nixed releasing a statement that called the dead senator a "hero."  

On Monday afternoon, however, the White House released a statement from the president expressing "respect" for McCain despite their political differences.

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