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Trump was frustrated by John McCain in 1990s, aide says


  • One of the earliest interactions between Donald Trump and the late Sen. John McCain came at a congressional hearing in 1993.
  • Trump, who owned casinos in Atlantic City, was in Washington, DC, to claim that casinos on Native American reservations were controlled by the mob and avoiding taxes.
  • Trump tried to get McCain’s attention by saying, “I gave money to your campaign,” according to a new book, by a longtime McCain aide.
  • McCain yelled in response, “Oh yeah? See what that will get you.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

One of the earliest interactions between Donald Trump and the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona came during a congressional hearing more than two decades before the real-estate mogul won the presidency, according to a new book written by a longtime McCain confidant.

Mark Slater, who started working for McCain in 1989, writes in a book published this week, “The Luckiest Man: Life with John McCain,” that Trump was incensed by McCain’s disregard of his presence in Washington DC in the early 1990s.

Trump, who owned casinos in Atlantic City, was in Washington to claim that casinos operated on Native American reservations were controlled by the mob and getting away with not paying taxes.

“The Indians don’t have to pay tax,” Trump said in testimony to a House subcommittee in 1993. “Nobody’s more for the Indians than Donald Trump.”

“You ask about competing. I love to compete … but I like to compete on an equal footing,” Trump added. “I’m competing and paying hundreds of millions of dollars in tax.”

McCain was also scheduled to testify at the hearing. McCain, who twice served as chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, had been an advocate of legislation supporting Native Americans, including the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 that allowed tribes to operate casinos on reservations.

At the hearing, Trump tried to grab McCain’s attention, according to Salter’s book. McCain, however, pretended not to notice and tried to walk past him quickly.

Trump shouted at McCain, “I gave money to your campaign.”

McCain yelled back, “Oh yeah? See what that will get you.”



John McCain.


Carolyn Kaster/AP



Decades after the back-and-forth, Trump still held a grudge against the Republican senator. In 2015, Trump derided McCain’s military service, which included being captured and tortured for over five years during the Vietnam War.

“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said at the time. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured. OK? I hate to tell you.”

According to a September report in The Atlantic, Trump had also complained about McCain after his death in 2018 after a months-long fight with an aggressive form of brain cancer.

After the late senator was to receive half-staff flag honors, Trump reportedly became angry.

“We’re not going to support that loser’s funeral,” sources with knowledge of the conversations told The Atlantic. “What the f— are we doing that for? Guy was a f—ing loser.”

Although Trump and the White House denied he made the remarks, the president had telegraphed his opinion of the late senator to the public.

“I don’t care about this. I didn’t get ‘thank you.’ That’s OK,” Trump said of McCain and his state memorial service at the US Capitol, during a campaign speech in 2019. “We sent him on the way, but I wasn’t a fan of John McCain.”

McCain withdrew his endorsement of then-candidate Trump during the 2016 US presidential election. He frequently criticized Trump during the first year and a half of his presidency, particularly after the president’s controversial performance at a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018.

McCain described Trump’s remarks at the summit as “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”

McCain also denounced Trump’s repeated attacks on the press: “Trump continues his unrelenting attacks on the integrity of American journalists and news outlets,” McCain wrote in a 2018 op-ed. “This has provided cover for repressive regimes to follow suit.”



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