In addition to attacking the longtime Arizona senator on Twitter, according to Mike Allen of Axios, President Donald Trump has been physically mocking Sen. John McCain behind his back, mimicking the "thumbs-down" gesture with which he cast the deciding vote against the so-called "skinny repeal" of the Affordable Care Act back in July. The report drew an angry response from McCain's daughter Meghan, who remarked on Twitter on Wednesday:
What more must my family be put through right now? This is abhorrent.
Trump is also supposedly indulging in similar physical mockery of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, with whom he's said to have a tense, at-times hostile working relationship. Specifically, he's reportedly taken to imitating McConnell's "slumped shoulders" and "lethargic body language."
It's the reports of his derisive mockery of McCain, however, that are sure to draw the most attention. While it's impossible to know precisely what Trump would look like playing up the physicality of McCain's memorable "thumbs-down" moment, he's long taken a ridiculing tact towards the six-term Republican senator.
During the presidential campaign, in fact, Trump actively mocked McCain for having been a prisoner of war. McCain was captured by the Viet Cong in 1967, and endured years of torture in a prison camp until his release in 1973. Trump, on the other hand, avoided military service thanks to bone spurs in his feet, and later remarked that trying to avoid sexually transmitted infections was his "personal Vietnam."
When she asks "what more" must her family be put through, she's likely referring to her father's life-threatening illness. The elder McCain is currently battling brain cancer, amid what he himself acknowledged this week is a "very serious prognosis."
McCain, 81, has permanent damage in his arms as a result of the injuries he suffered in Vietnam. As a result, he can't lift his arms up over his head, and reportedly avoids repetitive actions that exercise his arms, as relatively light exertion can give him shoulder pain.
Again, it's impossible to know exactly what Trump is supposedly doing when he mocks the senator, and any guesses are just that ― guesses; pure speculation, to this point. However, given that the imitation reportedly relates to the thumbs-down gesture he flashed on the senate floor with his arm outstretched, and McCain's physical limitations as a result of his time as a prisoner, it's not hard to see why many people are incensed about this.
The progressive veterans advocacy group VoteVets, for example, released a statement excoriating Trump over the report, calling his actions "sickening."
If Allen's report is true, this would not be the first time Trump has engaged in physically mocking a person with disabilities that he views as an opponent or critic. During the presidential campaign, he performed a crude, mocking physical impression of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who suffers from arthrogryposis, a disease of the joints.
Trump vehemently denied taunting Kovaleski over his condition, insisting he was representing the longtime investigative journalist "groveling" — but you be the judge.
Trump has not yet offered any public response to the reports about him mocking Sens. McConnell and McCain, and besides his daughter's outraged reaction on Twitter, nor has McCain himself.
Although this is the sort of story that might loom large over a typical president, and force some kind of public response, apology, or acknowledgment, there's very little reason believe this will penetrate the national consciousness, or have any discernible impact on people's existing views of the commander-in-chief.
After all, Trump's aforementioned taunting of Kovaleski was barely even a bump in the road for him even though it got a ton of coverage, evoking criticism and condemnation across the media. Moreover, his primary election attacks on McCain's war record ― he essentially taunted McCain for having been captured ― also barely moved the needle.