Sen. John McCain has strong rebuke for President Trump

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John McCain, R-Ariz. (Source: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) John McCain, R-Ariz. (Source: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(Source: Twitter) (Source: Twitter)
(3TV/CBS 5) -

"An American president does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections."

That was a part of a statement released by Arizona Senator John McCain Tuesday, after President Donald Trump congratulated Russian President Vladimir Putin for winning re-election earlier this month.

Speaking with reporters in the Oval Office Tuesday, Trump said that he congratulated Putin -- a figure who has loomed over his administration because of Russia's meddling in the 2016 election -- on winning another term.

The result of the election, however, was never in doubt, given Putin's autocratic stranglehold on power.

But Pres. Trump's decision to congratulate Putin on his electoral win provoked a strong rebuke from GOP Sen. John McCain.

McCain's statement reads:

“An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections. And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country's future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin's regime. 

And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country's future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin's regime."

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders disagreed with McCain's criticism.

"We don't get to dictate how other countries operate. Putin has been elected in their country and it's not something we can dictate to them how they operate," Sanders said.

McCain, the Armed Services Committee chairman, has previously called Putin a murderer and a thug. He's also pressed the Trump administration to respond aggressively to Russia's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

[SECTION: Sen. John McCain stories]

This past weekend, McCain's daughter Meghan McCain posted a photo on social media of her with her father, saying there's "no place I would rather be."

The photo posted Sunday on Twitter shows Meghan McCain and her father wearing warm clothing on what appears to be a patio.
   
[RELATED: Meghan McCain shares photo of father
during his absence from Washington]

The 81-year-old Republican has been battling brain cancer. He was diagnosed last summer.

[MORE: Sen. John McCain's brain cancer diagnosis]

Meghan McCain's publicist, Teal Cannaday, says the photo was taken at Sedona.

The senator's family has a ranch near Sedona, about 100 miles (161 kilometers) north of Phoenix.

Meghan McCain said last week that no timetable has been determined for her father to return to the Senate but that it could be by the summer.

She said then her father was doing well as he continued to undergo treatment.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona Politics]

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CNN & The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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