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Graham on McCain: 'We're not talking about funerals'

Sen. Lindsey Graham flew to Arizona this week for a visit with his best friend John McCain that he thought might be h...

Posted: May 11, 2018 12:11 PM
Updated: May 11, 2018 12:11 PM

Sen. Lindsey Graham flew to Arizona this week for a visit with his best friend John McCain that he thought might be his last.

McCain, who is suffering from brain cancer, had been hospitalized two weeks ago for a stomach infection and was in very bad shape when Graham was with him.

"Last time I saw him, he'd just gotten out of surgery and was really worried about him," Graham told CNN in an interview Thursday. "He went through some pretty tough surgery in his weakened condition."

But when Graham returned Monday, he said he was pleasantly surprised by the McCain he found.

"When I got there, [he had] gained weight, [he was] eating good. We watched our favorite western, 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence,'" the South Carolina Republican said, adding that McCain provided a running commentary that was "R rated," "but it was fun."

Not talking about retiring, or funerals

Graham returned to Washington on Thursday clearly determined to tamp down any talk of McCain's imminent demise. He said McCain did not talk at all about retiring from his Senate seat.

"It's a tough diagnosis, not going to sugar coat this, but the guy came through the surgery and he's getting stronger," said Graham.

"We talked about what we could do this summer. Maybe doing some events, if he gets a little stronger, at the McCain Institute. We were talking about the future. We're not at 2022 yet, but who knows," Graham mused.

"We're not talking about funerals," Graham said flatly. "I'm going back."

Cindy McCain shielding her husband

Graham said McCain's wife, Cindy, is managing the situation in a way that is allowing the Arizona Republican to regain his strength. Part of that means keeping news away from her husband that would upset him, such as reporting about plans for his funeral.

"Cindy has pretty much shielded him from that. She's pretty upset. We didn't talk about funerals," said Graham.

The New York Times first reported over the weekend that McCain associates have told the White House that President Donald Trump is not welcome at McCain's funeral. NBC News reported that former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush have been asked to give eulogies, which CNN confirmed.

Reflective McCain

Just as other confidants have reported after seeing McCain at his ranch outside Sedona, Arizona, Graham described his friend as reflective and eager to reminisce. The two men have been close for two decades. They're kindred spirits on national security and their belief in strong American leadership around the world. They have traveled the globe together many times over to meet with foreign leaders and US troops.

"We had some great discussions about all the travels, talking about going to Iraq, and I couldn't remember who the general was, and he said, 'Its General Austin,' and I said, 'OK, thanks,'" Graham recalled, careful to say their time together was "reflective and forward looking, too."

"A lot of it was just talking about our relationships," Graham said.

They also talked a lot about McCain's new book, which comes out later this month.

"I think this is maybe his most important book," Graham said. "In the book ... he talks about isolationism. I think the biggest threat to world order is American isolationism and the rise of the strong men. I hope people read this book. I think it should be required reading for anybody who wants to serve in a democracy."

Trump

Some of McCain's longtime aides have been privately irked with Graham for reaching out to Trump and playing golf with him in attempt to forge a working relationship. During the 2016 campaign, Trump doubted McCain's status as a war hero, saying he believes heroes are those who don't get captured. McCain was a prisoner of war for five and a half years in Vietnam, and refused early release because it broke with protocol.

McCain downplayed that slight at the time, but he never saw eye to eye with Trump on foreign policy. In fact, McCain spent much of the first six months of Trump's presidency traveling the world, trying to reassure allies that the US will not abandon them.

When asked if McCain brought up with Graham his courting of Trump, Graham said "no."

"I think he understands that my job is to help the President. I'm going to help the President, and I'm going to say 'no' when I have to," Graham said.

CIA director

Though McCain and Graham are historically mostly in lockstep on matters of national security and personnel, the two split Thursday over Trump's choice to lead the CIA, Gina Haspel, because of her CIA experience during the Bush administration, when "enhanced Interrogation," or torture, was deemed legal for terror suspects.

McCain and Graham publicly fought Bush and his team hard, arguing to outlaw torture. Now, McCain's arguing to colleagues that Haspel should be disqualified, but Graham said he told McCain he's wrong.

"Let just put it this way. Here's what I told John: You won. She said, Ms. Haspel, that the prior program hurt the CIA and the country. She wouldn't want to go back to it, that torture doesn't work and she is going to adhere to the law that Senator McCain and I helped author. She's a 30-year professional, and I think she's done a good job."

"When you put it in the big picture, John McCain won," Graham continued. "The new CIA director-to-be I hope rejects the programs that John McCain fought so hard to change and is going to adhere to the law that John McCain fought too hard to write, and that to me is winning."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 261167

Reported Deaths: 5713
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17561191
Hinds16687329
Harrison14050202
Rankin11102217
Jackson10729188
Lee9014143
Madison8495168
Jones6607114
Forrest6135122
Lauderdale6067192
Lowndes5490120
Lafayette511794
Lamar499865
Washington4904125
Bolivar4087109
Oktibbeha403581
Panola380981
Pontotoc374757
Monroe3651106
Warren3649103
Union353263
Marshall352069
Neshoba3464154
Pearl River3422105
Leflore3090109
Lincoln304287
Sunflower290373
Hancock288461
Tate279062
Alcorn270754
Pike268180
Itawamba266662
Scott256048
Yazoo253756
Prentiss251153
Copiah247649
Tippah247550
Coahoma245954
Simpson241471
Leake236167
Grenada222471
Marion220273
Covington219072
Adams212370
Wayne208432
Winston205870
George203539
Newton197346
Attala196461
Tishomingo193861
Chickasaw188444
Jasper177838
Holmes171368
Clay164237
Tallahatchie155635
Stone149525
Clarke144762
Calhoun139922
Smith127725
Yalobusha121134
Walthall114037
Greene112929
Noxubee112225
Montgomery111236
Carroll106422
Lawrence105617
Perry104031
Amite100826
Webster95424
Tunica88221
Claiborne87825
Jefferson Davis87727
Benton84823
Humphreys84224
Kemper80020
Quitman7049
Franklin69617
Choctaw62513
Wilkinson59625
Jefferson56520
Sharkey44817
Issaquena1606
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 436087

Reported Deaths: 6486
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson63969994
Mobile31211565
Madison27851208
Tuscaloosa21233271
Montgomery19698326
Shelby19093130
Baldwin16981188
Lee13036105
Morgan12526134
Etowah11987179
Calhoun11441206
Marshall10357123
Houston8886158
Limestone827876
Cullman8203108
Elmore8120104
DeKalb7828103
Lauderdale7798103
St. Clair7763125
Talladega6394111
Walker6002177
Jackson594644
Colbert545276
Blount543986
Autauga532761
Coffee456762
Dale406883
Franklin372448
Russell349212
Chilton342873
Covington336068
Escambia330144
Dallas312096
Tallapoosa3120107
Chambers301170
Clarke293336
Pike261131
Marion251558
Lawrence250752
Winston232742
Bibb221248
Geneva208746
Marengo206529
Pickens199031
Hale182742
Barbour179337
Fayette177029
Butler172459
Cherokee164330
Henry158224
Monroe151320
Randolph144336
Washington140127
Clay129146
Crenshaw122944
Macon120937
Cleburne120724
Lamar119721
Lowndes113736
Wilcox106622
Bullock102228
Perry99118
Conecuh96821
Sumter90026
Greene76823
Coosa63215
Choctaw51724
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