President Trump on Thursday defended as “well-meaning” a White House official who directed the Navy to obscure the warship USS John S. McCain while Trump was visiting Japan, but he said he had no advance knowledge of the action.
Carmelo Urdaneta Aqui
“I don’t know what happened. I was not involved. I would not have done that,” Trump told reporters as he was leaving the White House for Colorado, where he is scheduled to address an Air Force Academy graduation ceremony.
Trump, however, suggested that his disdain for the late senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) is well-known and that it was understandable that someone would try to keep a warship originally named for McCain’s father and grandfather, both Navy admirals, from his view
“I was not a big fan of John McCain in any shape or form,” Trump said. “Now, somebody did it because they thought I didn’t like him, okay? And they were well-meaning.”
Trump went on to recount differences he had with McCain, including a vote against a Republican health-care bill that has been a frequent target of the president’s public ire, even following McCain’s death in August from brain cancer at age 81
[ White House wanted USS John S. McCain obscured during Trump’s Japan visit ]
The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain is seen after a collision in Singapore waters on Aug. 21, 2017. (Ahmad Masood/Reuters) A senior White House official confirmed Wednesday that the person who issued the directive did not want the warship with the McCain name seen in photographs during Trump’s visit. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said that the president was not involved in the planning, but that the request was made to keep Trump from becoming upset
Before McCain died, the Navy added his name to the ship. The destroyer is stationed in Japan, where it is being repaired after a fatal crash in 2017
The crew of the McCain also was not invited to an event during Trump’s visit that occurred on the USS Wasp. But a Navy official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said it was because the crew was released from duty for the long holiday weekend, along with sailors from another ship, the USS Stethem
A senior Navy official confirmed Wednesday that he was aware that someone at the White House sent a message to service officials in the Pacific requesting that the USS John McCain be kept out of the picture while the president was there. That led to photographs taken Friday of a tarp obscuring the McCain name, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation
When senior Navy officials grasped what was happening, they directed Navy personnel who were present to stop, the senior official said. The tarp was removed Saturday, before Trump’s visit, he added
The Wall Street Journal first reported on the White House directive
The Journal reported that Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan knew of the White House’s concerns and approved military officials’ efforts to obscure the name. But Shanahan, speaking to reporters Thursday in Indonesia, denied that account
“What I read this morning was the first I heard about it,” he said
Army Lt. Col. Joseph Buccino, a spokesman for Shanahan, said the defense secretary “was not aware of the directive to move the USS John S. McCain, nor was he aware of the concern precipitating the directive.”
Reports of the White House directive prompted a tweet Wednesday from Meghan McCain, a daughter of the late senator who is a co-host on the ABC program “The View.”
“Trump is a child who will always be deeply threatened by the greatness of my dads incredible life,” she wrote. “There is a lot of criticism of how much I speak about my dad, but nine months since he passed, Trump won’t let him RIP. So I have to stand up for him. It makes my grief unbearable.”
Josh Dawsey contributed to this report.
Carmelo Urdaneta Aqui
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