“Kelly Sadler is no longer employed within the Executive Office of the President,” said the email from White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah, ending the tenure of a press aide who caused controversy when she reportedly told her colleagues in a closed door meeting that Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) opposition to CIA director nominee Gina Haspel didn’t matter because he was “dying.”
McCain has been battling glioblastoma, a type of brain tumor, and underwent surgery last July. He has been absent from the Senate since December as he recuperates from the side effects of his treatments, and the prognosis for this type of aggressive cancer is poor. McCain was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War for over five years, enduring brutal torture. He had expressed objections to Haspel’s nomination based on what he said was her “failure to address concerns” about enhanced interrogation methods.
About a month ago, White House staffers were meeting to strategize how to support Haspel’s nomination. The Republican majority in the Senate is narrow, with 51 Republicans, 47 Democrats, and 2 Independents, so every vote is crucial. McCain’s objection was brought up, and Sadler reportedly dismissed his concerns, saying that his opinion didn’t matter because “he’s dying anyway.”
The White House refused to condemn Sadler’s comments and instead focused their ire on “leakers” who had given this story and others damaging to the administration to the media.
Sadler also never apologized publicly. She did make a private phone call to McCain’s daughter, Meghan McCain, but the lack of public response and the White House’s own silence on the issue still left her unsatisfied, and she publicly questioned why Sadler had not been fired.
According to CNN, a senior White House official said that they had been planning a strategic exit for Sadler for several weeks. Among the possibilities being considered are transferring her to another agency or department. It is not clear if she will take such a position or if she will leave the Trump administration entirely.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.