Donald Trump

Trump's McCain Attacks Further Mold the GOP in the President's Image

Confidants of the late senator have either buckled, joined #NeverTrump plotters, or bolted.


||| Kyle Mazza/ZUMA Press/Newscom
Kyle Mazza/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Many people are speculating this week about President Donald Trump's motivation for expelling fresh new buckets of spittle in his long-running feud with John McCain's ghost. Daughter Meghan McCain says Trump just knows "he will never be a great man." Vanity Fair's Tina Nguyen reckons the president is haunted "by a sense that his enemies are closing in." Maybe it's "because McCain always had Trump pegged for what he was," writes Commentary's Noah Rothman. Washington lawyer and Kellyanne Conway husband George Conway famously (and flippantly) suggests narcissistic personality disorder.

Any of these are certainly possible, but ultimately unknowable. What we can better assess is the practical impact of Trump's rhetorical barrage. And it is this: By making this feud a top political issue of the week (with the help of an always-willing media), the president is forcing elected Republicans and other high-profile conservatives to respond—with support, opposition, subdued subtweets, mealy-mouthed half-criticism, or silence. Through this ritual the Grand Old Party becomes more Trumpified and less McCained. And the brain trust that surrounded the late senator gets pushed further out into the #NeverTrump fringes of the GOP, or out of the party altogether.

Take John Weaver, a key strategist in both of McCain's presidential campaigns, though he was jettisoned from the second one in July 2017 after a disastrous first few months. Weaver's response to the president's attacks sounds like a declaration of political independence, maybe even war:

Weaver has been orchestrating the not-quite-happening presidential campaign of CNN contributor John Kasich, who sent out a fundraising email in response to Trump v. McCain. ("When we don't speak out about these things, we become numb to them and we simply can't let that happen," the former Ohio governor said in the mailer.)

Just about every potential #NeverTrump presidential challenge has a senior McCainster in the middle of things. Who's running the not-quite-declared campaign of independent Howard Schultz? McCain 2008 senior campaign advisor Steve Schmidt, who quit the GOP in 2018 over Trump's family separation policies and promptly declared that the Trumpified party must "burn to the ground." McCain alter-ego and longtime co-author Mark Salter reportedly gave a hand to the second inaugural address of Maryland governor and #NeverTrump hopeful Larry Hogan, and has been saying stuff like "I would prefer a Democratic nominee who appeals to centrists like me and not to the fringes of his or her party." Even Bill Weld's threadbare staff includes Jennifer Horn, who, while not a McCain intimate, did campaign with the maverick in New Hampshire and took succor from the senator in her opposition to Trump.

The president's attitude toward these maverick remnants and their class cohorts along the Acela corridor is clear—scoreboard! Also, don't let the door hit you on your way out. Until proven otherwise, this is Trump's party now, which means that those McCain intimates who wish to stay on golfing terms with the GOP leader are going to have to almost ritually debase themselves, like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.) did this week:

(Schmidt, for one, says Graham has been "corrupted by ambition.")

Every good divorce story requires compelling arguments on both sides, and the Trump-McCain split is no exception. The president bashes his nemesis for "a war in the Middle East that McCain pushed so hard," and he's right about that. (McCain only got around to admitting that the Iraq War was a "mistake" in the memoir he and Salter published last year.) Say what you will about the current commander in chief and his herky-jerky foreign policy, but he has not started the kinds of interventions that McCain spent the last two decades of his life fervently advocating.

Trumpworld also sees the McCain rump as being too cozy with the media, too embedded in the deep state, too contemptuous of the conservative grassroots. Certainly, the senator's central role in distributing the controversial Steele dossier to the FBI and media ties all three of those truth-containing critiques into a neat bow.

The McCainite complaint about Trumpism overlaps so neatly with the media's that it almost doesn't require stating, but: The president is a draft-dodging boor who lies like a rug, pits Americans vs. Americans, scapegoats immigrants, embraces dictators, and debases everything he touches. The complaint contains much truth.

The questions going forward are whether the #NeverTrump brigades buckle, revolt, or defect; whether those in the latter two categories have enough manpower to make a noticeable numerical difference; how the Democratic Party and third parties/independents respond to these untethered political souls; and if there will be some big-tent reunion/reformation once the Trump Train passes through town. Judging by the dizzying number of Trump-accommodationist manifestos floating around, I'd put the likelihood of the latter rather low. Particularly among those closest to the cantankerous Mr. McCain.

Speaking of which: My obituary for the maverick.

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  1. “John earned his send off, the old fashioned way”

    He collaborated his way to it?

    1. Paid for by lobbyists?

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    3. Prepaid funerals are a thing. I bought my grave site a few years ago. It’s close to the family plot, so my relatives can easily visit me after I die but I didn’t have to talk to them to buy my plot.

      What does one do to earn a nice funeral? Which funeral parlors accept barter instead of cash, because I’ve been low on cash these days.

  2. love how T won’t let McCain die. McCain is poster-child for Establishment and Elitism and should be remembered for Keating 5.

    1. And quitting the Presidential race in the middle.

      1. sure, pile on. had blocked out his presidential run totes forgot about “the suspension”

    2. Welch is deeply, deeply concerned about the image of the Republican Party.

      1. Well, NATO is just so important, you know

    3. love how T won’t let McCain die

      It is really cool.

    4. It is odd that Welch is so sad about this whole thing. At most I am ambivalent. McCain was a big government antagonist of free speech who never missed a chance to rattle his saber at any country that said mean things about the US. I am no fan of Trump, but is a GOP in the strain of McCain really preferable?

      The internet has a term for this behavior, “Concern Trolling.” Welch pretends that he is deeply concerned about the changes of the GOP, pretending as if he was an ally all along. In fact, if not for Trump, all of McCain’s war mongering and fecklessness regarding Obamacare and hostility to third parties in his campaign finance regulations would be getting Welch all riled up. But instead he acts as if it is truly lamentable that the GOP isn’t revering a man whose legacy is completely objectionable to Welch.

    5. Trump publicly dragging the warmongers and soiling their names is one of my favorite things about him

      1. Maybe Putin can get some hookers to pee on Bill Kristol.

        I’d pay a dollar to see that.

      2. Recently I read an editorial by a Trump supporter that said this :

        “Millions of Americans are willing to shrug off Trump’s malice, believing it is offset by the needed disruption he is bringing to a stale and corrupted political swamp.”

        I wanted to ask the writer what actions Trump taken against corruption, the established political order, or to drain the swamp. What actions, mind you, more substantive than WWE theatrics. But we all know the answer: Trump’s administration is more corrupt – not less – than predecessor or average norm. Trump has done nothing to change the political order, because chaos alone doesn’t mean jack. And the White House mess is the picture definition of swamp. Instead, Trump offers loyal supporters consumer-ready performance for their viewing pleasure. He’s a reality TV star playing a reality TV president. It’s national affairs for yuk yuks.

        These are people raised on talk radio and Fox News. Politics for them is an entertainment product; politicians being just extras on the set. They want a child-level puppet show, with cartoon villains and heroes in bright garish colors. Remember the old Batman TV show when POW! appeared on the screen with every punch? That’s their idea of political debate. A sleazy vacuous scamster like Trump is the very president they’ve dreamed of.

        Like a cartoon come to life….

        1. These are people raised on talk radio and Fox News. Politics for them is an entertainment product; politicians being just extras on the set. They want a child-level puppet show, with cartoon villains and heroes in bright garish colors.

          Like XM said below, the double standards and lack of self-awareness of the left regarding McCain is what makes their pretentiousness so obnoxious. These are people who proudly brag about hard-left cable TV comedians being their go-to news sources. They thought it was wonderful that Obama and the Hollywood media complex were tied at the hip.

          You’re really in no position to be accusing anyone of indulging in politics as entertainment.

        2. Uh huh. How is Trump’s boorishness on McCain any different from his petty crap against dozens of other people? Answer : In no way whatsoever. Who the hell believes it’s meaningful and significant just this one time? Trump gives an ugly imitation of a reporter with a physical disability. Why? Because Trump is an insecure little bully – hollow inside where normal people have character and values. He insults Ted Cruz’s wife and claims the senator’s father was involved in murdering JFK. Why? Same reason. Megyn Kelly has “blood coming out of her whereever”? Same reason.

          Why twist yourself into a pretzel claiming Trump’s vicious catty childishness is anything more? Why bother peddling something so phony? Maybe you’re ashamed when forced to confront what Trump is.

          1. What the fuck would you know about character and values, shitlib? I’ll repeat what I said before: all you have to know about what the left really thinks of McCain is look at what they said about him in 2008. The second he got anywhere close to a seat with real, actual power, they went after him like hyenas.

            A New Yorker article after the election had a pointed observation that he wasn’t happy unless he was losing, and that’s why the left and MSM loved him so much. They have nothing but respect for Republicans who “lose with honor,” because Republicans are never supposed to win in their stupid little self-created morality plays.

            1. So much twirling confusion in your brain…. I’m going to try & help you clarify your own thoughts, though God knows why I bother :

              (1) McCain is dead & buried. We’re still talking about him because Trump is a boy-child fool.

              (2) Liberals didn’t give a damn about McCain. The press like him, the same way they like Paul Ryan and dislike Hillary Clinton – with all the herd instinct of junior high school cliques. I know there are snowflake idiots who worry over such superficial nonsense – guts twisted-up in knots as they stew about who’s in the hip crowd and who’s not. Like you, huh? Were you the same sad case in junior high?

              (3) But Trump isn’t obsessed with McCain because the press found him a good joe to have a beer with. Trump isn’t fixated on McCain due to any policy difference. Trump doesn’t lie about McCain’s education or war record over a substantive disagreement. It’s all just a snit. Trump has the emotional maturity of a two-year-old brat, and he’s throwing a snit. Over someone six feet underground no less….

              (4) So you take your junior high trauma – graft it onto a blue-faced toddler tantrum – and somehow convince yourself something noble is involved ?!? Got a clue how pathetic that looks?

              1. Stop. You’re sounding desperate.

  3. John McCain was a scandal-plagued statist but Trump is the king of libertarians.

    –All the comments

    1. Wow you even lie preemptively.

      1. Has anyone ever willingly touched your dick?

        1. Dude, why so rude?

          You are just confirming that liberals have nothing valuable to say, can’t make a valid argument, and are just assholes.

          1. Tulpa has been harassing me for days over something only an autistic, sexually frustrated harelip cunt would care about. He’s a freakish nerdy psychopath. Don’t encourage him.

            1. They’re your words bro. People gonna laugh at you even harder for calling your own words harassment.

              1. I thought if I said I was a scammer and a liar that meant you’d leave me the fuck alone.

                Trying to get inside my head is a losing game. Do you want me to get inside yours? Tell me, what is your worst memory of childhood. Don’t lie, or I’ll know.

                1. “Trying to get inside my head is a losing game”

                  You said it.

            2. Let Tulpa be Tulpa. Be yourself. Don’t stoop to their level.

              If you want to be taken seriously, and there is ample evidence you do not, take the high ground.

              1. He can’t do that. His ego is so fragile that he has to defend against any criticism, even one based on his own words.

                “Tony|3.20.19 @ 5:47PM|#

                I’m a scammer and a liar. “

                He seems to be upset that I keep pointing out what he said about himself.

            3. Really? So what do you, an autistic, sexually frustrated harelip cunt, care about?

              1. Holy shit, Tulpa being on the spectrum really makes sense.

          2. Dude, why so rude?


            You are just confirming that liberals have nothing valuable to say, can’t make a valid argument, and are just assholes.

            Fact: Tony represents all liberals.

            1. He seems to think he does.

              1. I certainly hope not.

                1. No, many of them don’t lie or scam like you admitted you do.

            2. “”Fact: Tony represents all liberals.””

              Not at all. But he is fitting the criticisms many make about liberals.

              1. Not at all. But he is fitting the criticisms many make about liberals.

                Let’s apply that ridiculous standard to all internet commenters! How fun!

                1. If the shoe fits.

                2. Oh you’re doing clown nose off Crusty. Sorry.

            3. Tony is the prototypical progressive…
              Except for one thing: he has a personality

        2. Yes Tony, I woud have thought your mother explained that’s how you happened by now.

          Climb out of her basement and ask her.

          1. Oh wait I have her on her corner, she’ll be home 5 handies from now, you can ask her then.

    2. “”Trump is the king of libertarians.””

      Said no one on the frickin board.

      1. The point is that the Trump nutsack play that passes for commentary at this place lately is ironic when considered against his record as a tinpot idiot who thinks the state is his to deploy absolutely in the pettiest of ways.

        1. No I think the point is that somehow you manage to lie and whine in almost every post you make.

        2. You can’t make a point when you are dishonest about other people’s positions.

          1. You be honest, now. How much FOX News do you watch?

            1. It’s funny watching you implore others not to lie.

              1. Not even the people who hate me most are amused by your shtick. No one likes you. No one ever has or ever will. It’s not your fault. I’m a good liberal. I don’t blame people for their psychological disorders.

                1. Unlike you, I don’t base my actions on what other people think.

                  1. That’s what an unloved autistic bald nerd would say.

                    1. Yes it is what you would say.

                      What does that have to do with me though?

                    2. I do care what other people think. Existing among other people means caring what they think, or else be considered a freakish autistic nerd nobody wants to hang around. The fact that you are confirming what I’m saying almost makes me want to pull back for fear of sending you into a crisis.

                    3. “I do care what other people think”

                      Then how are you still alive?

                    4. Because other people think of me as a bon vivant, however somewhat aloof, which only adds to the mystique.

                      Am I a liar? Of course I am a liar. Lying is an essential part of good manners. An autistic fuckface sexually frustrated harelip sinker dick nerd might not understand such things. And it’s not your fault.

                    5. No the correct answer is because I inseminated your mom.

                    6. “”Because other people think of me as a bon vivant, however somewhat aloof,”‘

                      Ha ha. That’s not what people think of you.

                    7. “Am I a liar? Of course I am a liar. ”

                      We know. It’s what makes your hissyfit about me pointing it out so hilarious.

                2. “No one likes you. No one ever has or ever will”

                  C’mon Tony.
                  That’s not true.
                  It’s not like he’s chipper morning eunuch

            2. 0

              I think the 24 hour cable new networks are loaded with op ed and very little news.

            3. I can make my own opinion about the news. I do not need them.

              1. You’re not important enough to me to have a complete picture of your worldview. I assume you’ve come to Trump worship all on your own through rational examination of evidence and not because you read and/or watch a constant supply of rightwing propaganda?

                1. I don’t do Trump worship. You are making shit up.

                  Funny how you keep making shit up when I point out you are making shit up.

                  1. Don’t get too mad at him Vic, I made him out himself as a liar and a scammer and his ego is too fragile to handle a bunch of people he claims to despise knowing that.

                    1. So…you’re not a liar then Tulpa?

    3. God Emperor of the Libertarians

  4. Weaver has been orchestrating the not-quite-happening presidential campaign of CNN contributor John Kasich, who sent out a fundraising email in response to Trump v. McCain

    Uhhh…good luck, guy.

    1. Probably not a coincidence that Kasich was the only Republican candidate in the last election that was halfway palatable to our exceptional media members.

      1. He was supposed to hold Hillary’s purse while she kicked him in the nuts.

  5. I like the way some people are pretending that attacks on McCain are new.

    1. Every time there’s a media vapor blitz about St. John, it’s fun to go back to 2008 and re-learn what they really thought about him.

      1. Welch hated his guts.

        1. Haha

        2. Welch hates whomever the progressives tell him to hate.
          He’s a joke

  6. I would have voted for Obama in 2008 if I had been old enough. I would not, however, have compared McCain to Hitler or labeled him a racist like I do with Drumpf. It’s difficult to believe that only a decade ago the most prominent Republicans were decent human beings who were simply misguided on certain matters of policy.


  7. Well Trump has been a democrat most his life.

  8. Through this ritual the Grand Old Party becomes more Trumpified and less McCained.

    Still not tired of winning


    1. “McCained.””

      Is that punishment handed out at a Taiwanese McDonalds?

      1. The only good thing about McCain was that he gave us a pretext for making McBain! jokes on HnR.

    2. So Much Winning!

  9. Neocons like neocons. News at 11

  10. Trump is right, we don’t miss that fuck. America is a lot better off with him dead.

  11. McCain served his country in Vietnam and deserves better from the president on that. The rest of it is just usual politics laid bare. And it’s something most voters I would wager care very little about. This is something journalists and beltway insiders will get worked up about, but for most of the country it’s just elites going at each other with no ultimate effect on Johnny Lunchbox’s daily life.

    We should probably be thrilled with anything that strips the pretense that these idiots are better than you and I and therefore more equipped to make decisions in your stead.

    1. It’s no saluting with a latte, that’s for sure.

      1. Somehow you are lying about that too.

    2. He served his country in Vietnam by almost immediately crashing an expensive plane, and spending a while in a POW camp. Not exactly Sgt. York material, though you can argue that he at least acquitted himself well as a prisoner.

      And if he’d left it at that, and not followed it up with a truly despicable political career, he might be deserving of some respect.

      But he didn’t, and thus isn’t.

    3. Most Vietnam vets who served with McCain refer to him as the Canary because of how much he sang. This is the same war monger who made up a song about bombing Iran. This asshole as president would have led America into world war 3.
      Let’s be honest here. McCain was a scumbag human being who never saw a war he did not want America to get involved in and never saw a country he did not want to bomb the crap out of. I hope he is burning in hell for his complete disregard for human life.

  12. It’s funny and a little sad watching Trump lose a Twitter war with a dead man.

    Trump is doing a Captain Queeg; hope he finds the strawberries McCain stole soon.

    1. You do remember the moral of that story, don’t you?

      1. Good observation.

      2. You mean that they were justified in getting rid of Captain Queeg?

    2. crufus|3.21.19 @ 5:01PM|#
      “It’s funny and a little sad watching Trump lose a Twitter war with a dead man.”

      Morr amusing to watch TDS victims make up fantasies

  13. I’m fine seeing the GOP become more Trumpified, because it will only speed up the GOP’s descent into total irrelevance.

    1. If there were a libertarian party this might be a good opportunity for them. Too bad there isn’t one

      1. The Giant Meteor for president 2020 campaign is just getting started.

        So far I am planning to go with that.

        1. SMOD. Get it right.

          1. Kneel Before SMOD 2020!

        2. No more unemployment! No more inequality! Giant Meteor 2020!

  14. Trump should be rebuked for picking fights with a dead man (or his daughter, who actually defends Trump or his policies).

    But the people going after Trump for this almost certainly detested Mccain when he ran against Obama. When conservatives highlighted his military service, they pointed out that he cheated on his wife. They predictably accused him of racism when he referred to Obama as “that one” in a debate. Sarah Palin still gets blamed for some random shooting for “rhetoric” she used almost 10 years ago.

    The double standard and lack of self awareness is just too much. I don’t think people who wished assassination and rape on political figures have much moral standing to chide Trump for throwing a temper tantrum on twitter.

    1. On the other hand, he was respected when he refused to pander to the moronic woman who thought that Obama was a secret Muslim.

      I have no idea who “wished assassination and rape on political figures” but it wasn’t me, so I guess I’m still OK to criticize Trump, right?

    2. PS I just googled his “that one” remark. Out of the top 10 results (one of which summarized 19 different commentators) only one accused him of racism. So perhaps you are misremembering what happened.

  15. While it would be best to let the dead rest, the beatification of McCain as some kind of exemplar of a politician is disconcerting. McCain was thin skinned and petty. In his political career, I don’t see much to hold up as an example to follow.

    1. With his dying breath McCain betrayed the Republican Party with his Obamacare Repeal no vote.

      1. And his constituents, whom he lied to for half a decade to get elected

      2. That infuriated me.

  16. The president is a draft-dodging boor who lies like a rug, pits Americans vs. Americans, scapegoats immigrants, embraces dictators, and debases everything he touches. The complaint contains much truth.

    The ladies of the evening don’t like it when a prostitute acts like a whore, it makes their whole profession seem somewhat disreputable. They’re not fooling anybody but themselves, we all know there’s nothing they won’t do for a crack rock.

  17. McCain and Keating had become personal friends following their initial contacts in 1981, and McCain was the only one of the five with close social and personal ties to Keating. . . . Between 1982 and 1987, McCain had received $112,000 in political contributions from Keating and his associates. In addition, McCain’s wife Cindy McCain and her father Jim Hensley had invested $359,100 in the Fountain Square Project, a Keating shopping center, in April 1986, a year before McCain met with the regulators. McCain, his family, and their baby-sitter had made nine trips at Keating’s expense, sometimes aboard Keating’s jet; three of the trips were made during vacations to Keating’s Bahamas retreat at Cat Cay. McCain did not pay Keating (in the amount of $13,433) for some of the trips until years after they were taken, when he learned that Keating was in trouble over Lincoln [Savings and Loan].

  18. Jeezus, when does the beatification of McCain end. No one told him to be part of leaking the Steele dossier to the media. No one told him to trash his running mate. Lots of people told him NOT to renege on his to vote for repeal of O-care.

    This guy milked an experience that does merit praise well beyond its value and shelf life. The same people now bashing Trump were calling McCain the same names in ’08; the same NYT clutching its pearls was peddling a tale of his screwing around that was not accurate; the same people holding him up as a paragon of virtue cannot point to a single McCain-like maverick on the Dem side, not a single Dem who can be counted on to fuck with his own side regularly.

  19. McCain was a fucking asshole.

    He voted against the bill to repeal and replace ObamaTheCommieCare.

    1. “McCain was a fucking asshole.”

      In many, many ways, and being dead does not change that one bit.

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  21. Martha Stewart should be able to adjudicate all matters relating to thank you notes.

  22. “Through this ritual the Grand Old Party becomes more Trumpified and less McCained. And the braintrust that surrounded the late senator gets pushed further out into the #NeverTrump fringes of the GOP, or out of the party altogether.”


  23. I hope John McCain is having fun sucking the Devil’s cock in Hell.

  24. Before Trump, Democrats and the press treated Reagan, who was dead, like an evil Hitlerian monster who was responsible for everything wrong with the world, so fuck off to everybody suddenly concerned about Trump being mean to McCain. I do think it is disgusting and over the top, but it is no worse than what the Democrats say about dead people.

    The response from the press and liberals when Scalia died was more despicable than anything Trump has said about McCain.

  25. I’m going to guess that he slammed McCain because McCain was slime, and Trump doesn’t have a lot of inhibitions against speaking ill of the dead.

    Personally, I do, but the McCain hagiography gets pretty sickening at times.

    1. The problem is – what good does Trump’s bashing of a dead person do?

      It makes him (Trump) look absolutely petty and immature.

      And absolutely does NOT address any issue.

      Trump can and should push what he thinks is right and politically “fight” anyone who is CURRENTLY in his way.

      But pushing a political fight with a dead person?

      Yeah, not good.

      1. I’m going to guess something triggered it, it isn’t as though he spontaneously unloads on dead people, even people who deserve it.

        But expecting the press to dive deep enough to find out what is unrealistic.

  26. I don’t think Trump is molding the GOP, but actually a separate model of politics.

    I voted for McCain. I remember DNC comments about McCain during the campaigns. Then the GOP and DNC establishment jointly and pointedly told Trump not to show at McCain’s funeral service. (So nobody gets an olive branch.)

    Trump did not get elected as the GOP’s candidate.

    Donald Trump — in his lifetime Democrat-Republican-Independent-Reform — got nominated on the Republican ticket because the primary voters liked the GOP country club chamber of commerce candidates less.

    He got elected because enough people did not want a third term for the Clinton Dynasty.

    And Cthulhu was not running.

    2016 Trump was the None of the Above candidate for people fed up with GOP and DNC.

    GOP and DNC are beginning to look like two false faces of an Establishment Party.

    I am forced to recall HG Wells’ comments about the two parties in US and Britain in his 1940 book The New World Order: “What are we to do as voting citizens? There I think the history of the so-called democracies in the past half-century is fairly conclusive. Our present electoral methods, which give no choice but a bilateral choice to the citizen and so force a two-party system upon him, is a mere caricature of representative government. It has produced upon both sides of the Atlantic, big, stupid, and corrupt party machines.”

  27. Reminds me of the old quote that “A statesman is just a dead politician”.

  28. McCain was much closer to being a traitor than he was a hero. Don’t any of you do any research on the guy who planned and orchestrated his own funeral? My Lord.

    1. He got the Presidential Suite at The Hanoi Hilton.

  29. Matt:

    Better go back to the Reason Foundation presentations at the Biltmore a few weeks ago involving the McCains. I have lived in AZ for over 30 yrs now. I have never thought well of the McCains. And you know what I think of Trump from our conversations there.

    Best always,


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