Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and President Donald Trump don’t seem to be the best of friends. Despite that, McCain has publicly stated numerous times that he wants to work with the president to help the people in his state who voted for him.
He won’t, however, compromise his beliefs to work with Trump or placate his party. On Wednesday, a confirmation vote was taken to approve the appointment of Steve Engel, Trump’s pick for Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. McCain, a veteran with strong feelings against the “enhanced interrogation techniques,” or torture, that was approved for use during the Bush administration, voted down Engel’s confirmation. He was the only Republican to do so.
Engel, who was deputy attorney general at the time, signed off on a memo in July of 2007 approving the use of torture against war prisoners. McCain told POLITICO:
‘Mr. Engel reviewed and commented on this memo, which attempted to justify interrogation techniques that violate the Geneva Conventions and stain our national honor. I cannot in good conscience vote for any nominee who in any way has supported the use of enhanced interrogation.’
POLITICO also notes that:
‘Bush had 358 of 610 nominations confirmed by now, and Obama had 341 of 505 nominees approved. The comparable figures for Trump are 161 of 398.’
The subject of the still empty administrative positions after nearly a year of Trump’s presidency is commonly complained about by GOP officials. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blamed Democratic obstruction for the many Trump nominees yet to be confirmed although Democrats no longer have the majority or even the right to filibuster.
McCain and Trump have clashed before on the subject of enhanced interrogation techniques. Shortly after his inauguration in January, Trump already had drafted and was considering signing an executive order to “ease limits on the treatment of suspected terrorists.” McCain was vocal in his dissent at the time.
‘The president can sign whatever executive orders he likes. But the law is the law. We are not bringing back torture in the United States of America.’
McCain also spoke out against Trump’s rally speeches to his blood-thirsty crowds where he vowed to bring back such torture techniques as waterboarding. When asked about those statements, McCain vehemently declared, “I don’t give a damn [what he wants to do].” Trump’s administrative officials, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, have scrambled to assure the public that enhanced interrogation techniques will not be approved during Trump’s presidency.
The contentious history between Trump and McCain is a longer one than this one issue. In August, McCain effectively killed the Affordable Care Act “skinny repeal” by surprising everyone when he voted against it. Trump was reportedly livid at the news, and he certainly seemed to be enraged when he tweeted his displeasure with McCain.
The two have had public arguments since right after Trump announced his bid for the presidency in 2016 when he said during the Family Leadership Conference that “he’s not a war hero. He’s a hero because he was captured, I like people who weren’t captured.”
Featured image via Getty/Chip Somodevilla