U.S. President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House. (Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg)

Trump Signs Bill Named for McCain Without Saying Senator's Name

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump signed defense legislation named for Senator John McCain in a splashy ceremony at an upstate New York Army base on Monday without once mentioning the ailing Arizona Republican’s name.

Trump traveled to Fort Drum, near the Canadian border, from his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, to sign the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act, the fiscal 2019 version of legislation Congress passes annually to set priorities for the military. He was joined by Vice President Mike Pence, who had traveled separately from Washington.

In an unusual ceremony, Trump and Pence observed soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division perform an artillery drill as attack helicopters hovered overhead before delivering speeches from a stage festooned with flags and military hardware.

“I’m here today to sign our new defense bill into law,” Trump said. “The national defense authorization act is the most significant investment in our military and our war fighters in our nation’s history.”

Neither of the men mentioned McCain, 81, the Navy veteran who while fighting brain cancer at his home in Arizona has become one of Trump’s most outspoken critics in Congress. McCain, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, hasn’t been back to Washington in months, and his colleagues titled the bill in his honor.

“I’m humbled that my colleagues in Congress chose to designate this bill in my name,” McCain said in a statement Monday. “Serving as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and working on behalf of America’s brave service members has been one of the greatest honors of my life.”

McCain harshly criticized Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin last month, calling it a “tragic mistake” after Trump sided with the Russian leader in criticizing the Department of Justice investigation into the Kremlin’s 2016 election interference.

“No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant,” McCain said in a statement after the summit in Helsinki.

Trump occasionally brings up McCain’s dramatic vote in 2017 against repealing much of Obamacare, one of the president’s top priorities.

He did so again later on Monday.

“I would’ve gotten rid of everything but as you know, one of our wonderful senators had thumbs down at two o’clock in the morning,” Trump said at a fundraiser in Utica, New York, without naming McCain.

Shortly after Trump’s speech at Fort Drum, Cindy McCain, the senator’s wife, tweeted “I’m so proud of @SenJohnMcCain and his work on NDAA. Incredibly humbled at the naming of this after my husband.”

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