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Trump Responds to Reports of Odd McCain Directive

If a White House official ordered ship obscured, he was 'well-meaning,' says president
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted May 30, 2019 11:36 AM CDT
Trump Responds to Reports of Odd McCain Directive
In this 2017 photo provided by U.S. Navy, the USS John S. McCain conducts a patrol in the South China Sea.   (James Vazquez/U.S. Navy via AP)

(Newser) – President Trump has made no secret of the fact that he isn't, and never was, an admirer of the late John McCain. But that story took a strange turn this week with a report that the White House ordered the Navy essentially to conceal a destroyer named for McCain's father and grandfather, both Navy admirals, while Trump visited Japan. By all accounts, Trump himself did not make any such order, but he said Thursday that he understands the rationale. Details and developments:

  • The president: “I don’t know what happened. I was not involved. I would not have done that,” Trump told reporters Thursday, reports Politico. “I was not a big fan of John McCain in any shape or form,” Trump added, before ticking off some of their differences. “Now, somebody did it because they thought I didn’t like him, OK? And they were well-meaning." But "I would never have done that."
  • Meghan McCain: She initially criticized Trump on Twitter Thursday morning over the report and later amplified on The View. "The president's actions have consequences," she said, per CNN. "And when you repeatedly are attacking my father and war heroes, it creates a culture in the military where people are clearly fearful to show my father's name in one way or another. And that, I think, is what has started this chain of events and actions."

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  • The allegations: The first report of the White House order came from the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post and the New York Times later confirmed the broad strokes, though with different details. The USS John McCain is docked at Yokosuku Naval Base, and the White House reportedly asked that it be "out of sight" when Trump visited. The ship, however, can't be moved because of ongoing repairs.
  • A tarp, a barge: The most tangible move to obscure the ship came when a tarp was used to cover its name, per the Journal and Post. Photos of that emerged on Friday, but Navy officials caught wind of what was happening and ordered the tarp removed on Saturday, before Trump's visit. The Journal also says a barge was positioned in front of the McCain ship, though it was moved before the president arrived.
  • The sailors: The Times reports that sailors from the ship were singled out and not invited to hear the president speak, and that those who showed up wearing the ship's insignia were turned away. However, the Post downplays this, reporting that the ship's crew was not invited because they had the day off for the Memorial Day weekend, along with sailors from another ship.
  • Different controversy: Some of the sailors who did hear Trump speak wore patches with an image of the president reading "Make Aircrew Great Again," as seen in this tweet from the Times. The Navy is looking into whether any uniform regulations were violated, reports Stars and Stripes.
  • Investigation: The Navy also is investigating whether anyone acted inappropriately in regard to the McCain ship, reports UPI. Acting Navy chief Patrick Shanahan says his chief of staff is looking into the reports.
  • A critic: In the Atlantic, Eliot Cohen writes that any Navy officials who agreed to the requests to cover up the ship "disgraced themselves and disgraced the oaths they took when they joined the service or became public officials." It's not only a matter of principle, he writes. "A service that tolerates sycophancy will get America’s sons and daughters killed."
(Meghan McCain doesn't want Democratic candidates invoking her father's name, either.)

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