Donald Trump’s spokesman raised eyebrows after saying the president had only joked about a dead rival being in hell because he felt ‘under attack.’

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham offered the unusual defense Thursday, hours after Trump pondered whether late Congressman John Dingell had been condemned to eternal damnation.

Grisham told Good Morning America that her boss was a ‘counter-puncher,’ despite the main target of Trump’s jibe clearly being unable to mount any kind of attack.

The spokeswoman added that she was ‘very, very sorry’ for Dingells widow, US Representative Debbie Dingell.

Trump joked about John Dingell’s death from cancer aged 92 during a rally in Battle Creek, Michigan, on Wednesday night as Debbie Dingell voted to impeach him.

He recalled Debbie’s thanks to him for ordering flags on official buildings to fly at half-mast saying: ‘She calls me up.

Advertisement

Advertisement

‘”It’s the nicest thing that’s ever happened, thank you so much, John would be so thrilled. He’s looking down, he’d be so thrilled. Thank you so much, sir.”

‘I said, that’s okay, don’t worry about it.

‘Maybe he’s looking up, I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe. But let’s assume he’s looking down.’

Trump made the bad-taste gag shortly after Debbie Dingell was seen walking into the US House of Representatives hand in hand with his arch-rival Nancy Pelosi.

Dingell has since hit-out at Trump’s remarks, telling CNN: ‘You know, I think it’s time to put politics aside on these kind of shots.

‘I try to be respectful of everybody.

‘I’ve never taken a personal shot at this president. I think his family is off limits.’

John Dingell died of prostate dancer after enjoying a 59 career in the House of Representatives – making him the longest-serving member of the US Congress ever.

Debbie Dingell was among Democrats who voted to make Trump the third president in the history of the US to face impeachment proceedings, over claims he abused his office and obstructed an investigation into that abuse.

He now faces a trial in the Senate next month, with senators then voting on whether or not to remove him from office.