Donald Trump tells supporters at a rally in Ohio that he fears the general election could be rigged while continuing to dodge criticism for insulting the parents of a fallen soldier.

John McCain continues to support Trump, but just barely, as he slams Trump's fight with soldier's parents

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

Arizona Sen. John McCain teetered on the edge of withdrawing his support for Donald Trump on Monday, but settled instead on strong words directed at the GOP nominee, who this weekend criticized the parents of a fallen Iraq veteran.

"I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump’s statement," McCain wrote in a lengthy statement. "I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates."

"While our party has bestowed upon him the nomination, it is not accompanied by unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us," he added.

Trump's candidacy has presented a quandary for elected Republicans, with McCain at or near the top of the list of conflicted politicians. McCain has always run on a brand of "straight talk," but has danced around Trump, who last year questioned his heroism in Vietnam. McCain spent years in captivity and declined an offer for release; Trump evaded service.

Facing a tough primary, McCain has nonetheless supported Trump, despite wide differences over rhetoric and foreign policy. Trump has run on an "America First" foreign policy that takes a skeptical view of strategic alliances and foreign intervention; McCain is a leading GOP hawk.

But the 2008 presidential nominee's statement Monday was among his strongest and heartfelt. He evoked the Republican Party of "Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan," as if in contrast to Trump. He spoke of the bracelet he wears bearing the name of a fallen hero given to him by a young soldier's mother.

"His memory and the memory of our great leaders deserve better from me," McCain wrote.

The statement also included a lengthy description of the heroism of Capt. Humayun Khan, the fallen soldier whose parents are locked in a rhetorical battle with Trump that is also laden with disputes over immigration and the place of Muslims in society.

"His name will live forever in American memory, as an example of true American greatness," McCain said. "I’d like to say to Mr. and Mrs. Khan: Thank you for immigrating to America. We’re a better country because of you. And you are certainly right; your son was the best of America, and the memory of his sacrifice will make us a better nation — and he will never be forgotten."

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