By MELISSA DANIELS and LAURIE KELLMAN
PHOENIX (AP) – Sen. John McCain expressed his deep gratitude and love of country in his final letter and implored Americans to put aside “tribal rivalries” and focus on what unites.
Rick Davis, former presidential campaign manager for McCain who is serving as a family spokesman, read the farewell message Monday at a press briefing in Phoenix.
In the statement, McCain reflected on the privilege of serving his country and said he tried to do so honorably. He also touched on today’s politics.
“Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here,” McCain wrote. “Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.”
McCain died Saturday from an aggressive form of brain cancer. Plans taking shape called for McCain to lie in state Wednesday in the Arizona State Capitol on what would have been his 82nd birthday. A funeral will be conducted Thursday at North Phoenix Baptist Church with former Vice President Joe Biden speaking.
In Washington, McCain will lie in state Friday in the Capitol Rotunda with a formal ceremony and time for the public to pay respects. On Saturday, a procession will pass the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and arrive for a funeral at Washington National Cathedral. Former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama are expected to speak at the service.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell paid tribute to John McCain on Monday by recalling their own legislative battles while echoing the late senator’s belief that there’s more that unites than divides Americans.
Speaking from the Senate floor, McConnell says that while McCain served the state of Arizona in Congress, “he was America’s hero all along.”
He spoke near McCain’s desk in the Senate, which has been draped in black and adorned with white roses in his honor.
McConnell and McCain tangled over several issues, including McConnell’s attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which failed on McCain’s surprise “no” vote. McConnell says serving with McCain “was never a dull affair.”
McCain will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda on Friday.
A private funeral is planned for Sunday afternoon at the Naval Academy Chapel followed by a private burial at the academy cemetery.
President Donald Trump was not expected to attend any of the services.
McCain was a noted critic of Trump, and Trump’s response to McCain’s death has been closely watched.
The flag atop the White House flew at half-staff over the weekend in recognition of McCain’s death but was raised Monday and then lowered again amid criticism.
Trump said Monday afternoon that he respects the senator’s “service to our country” and signed a proclamation to fly the U.S. flag at half-staff until his burial.
When asked about Trump’s response to McCain’s death after the flag was raised Monday, Davis said that the family is focusing on the outpouring of support from around the world instead of “what one person has done or said.”
“The entire focus of the McCain family is on John McCain,” Davis said. “There really is no room in the McCain family today to focus on anything but him.”
In Arizona, high-profile campaigns announced that they have suspended some activity this week.
McCain was just one of 11 U.S. senators in the state’s 116-year history, and on Tuesday, primary voters will decide the nominees in races across all levels of government. There’s also the sensitive question of who will succeed McCain.
Arizona law requires the governor of the state to name an appointee of the same political party who will serve until the next general election. Since the time to qualify for November’s election is past, the election would take place in 2020, with the winner filling out the remainder of McCain term until 2022.
Possible appointees whose names circulate among Arizona politicos include McCain’s widow, Cindy McCain, former U.S. Senator Jon Kyl and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s chief of staff Kirk Adams.
Throughout the weekend, Arizona politicos across all levels of government offered remembrances of McCain. Noting McCain’s death, several candidates, including Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Rep. Martha McSally, who are expected to win their party’s races for the state’s other U.S. Senate seat, on Sunday evening said they would suspend their campaigns on Wednesday and Thursday. Ducey, whose office is coordinating services at the Arizona State Capitol for McCain, will not attend any campaign events between now and when McCain is buried.
In Phoenix, a memorial outside McCain’s office drew James Olsen, who was on a business trip from Columbia, South Carolina.
“I’m all the way here. I need to pay my respects,” Olsen said.
Tributes poured in from around the globe. French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted in English that McCain “was a true American hero. He devoted his entire life to his country.” Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said McCain’s support for the Jewish state “never wavered. It sprang from his belief in democracy and freedom.” And Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, called McCain “a tireless fighter for a strong trans-Atlantic alliance. His significance went well beyond his own country.”
McCain was the son and grandson of admirals and followed them to the U.S. Naval Academy. A pilot, he was shot down over Vietnam and held as a prisoner of war for more than five years. He went on to win a seat in the House and in 1986, the Senate, where he served for the rest of his life.
“He had a joy about politics and a love for his country that was unmatched,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., told CNN’s “State of the Union.” ”And while he never made it to the presidency, in the Senate, he was the leader that would see a hot spot in the world and just say, we need to go there and stand up for that democracy.”
Kellerman reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Ken Thomas contributed to this report.
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