- "It's absolutely a success," Spicer said
- McCain has called the mission a "failure"
Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump and Sen. John McCain are squaring off again.
Trump blasted McCain on Twitter Thursday following the Arizona Republican's comments a day earlier that he couldn't characterize the operation as a "success."
"Sen. McCain should not be talking about the success or failure of a mission to the media. Only emboldens the enemy!" Trump wrote.
His spokeswoman Julie Tarallo later said McCain will "continue to execute his oversight duties as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and support the brave men and women serving our nation in uniform."
The sparring between Trump and McCain began Wednesday. White House press secretary Sean Spicer was asked at a briefing about criticism of the raid, including comments by McCain.
"It's absolutely a success, and I think anyone who would suggest it's not a success does disservice to the life of Chief Ryan Owens," Spicer said, citing intelligence obtained in the operation. He later followed up without citing McCain by name: "I think anybody who undermines the success of that raid owes an apology ... to the life of Chief Owens."
McCain has been a frequent critic of the Trump administration, publicly criticizing the President -- who hails from his own party -- for fighting with Australia, his choice for Cabinet secretaries, his comments about torture and his travel and immigration ban. The relationship has had tensions since Trump said during the campaign that McCain was not a war hero — despite his status as a decorated war hero and former POW. McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, continues to push back against the White House in a way his fellow Republican colleagues have shown more restraint.
Meghan McCain, the senator's daughter, rebuked the President and others on Thursday afternoon for criticism of her father.
"Trump has never served. My father can't bend one of his knees or lift one of his arms above his head. I am done with this today. DONE," she wrote on Twitter.
Earlier in the week, the Trump-McCain divide was on display over how to approach Russia.
In an interview that aired over the weekend, Trump responded to a question about Russian President Vladimir Putin's human rights abuses by saying, "You think our country's so innocent?"
Without mentioning Trump, McCain took to the Senate floor on Tuesday to rebuke Putin as a human rights abuser and shed light on opposition leader Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Putin critic currently in the hospital.
The January raid at the center of the latest dispute between Trump and McCain involved the first military death under the new President and resulted in a number of civilian casualties, including the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born al Qaeda leader killed under former President Barack Obama.
It remains unclear to what extent fallout from the raid may have impacted the US relationship with Yemen. This week, reports emerged that the government of Yemen would not allow US military raids in the country without full approval. A State Department spokesman on Wednesday defended US operations in the war-torn nation, and Spicer praised the relationship of the two countries while saying he was "not in a position to go any further at this time."
"Yemen more than most countries fully appreciates the fight that we have with ISIS," Spicer said. "At this point, I'll leave it at we understand that we share that commitment with them, and we're going to continue to work with them to combat ISIS."