Navy Confirms White House Request To ‘Hide’ USS John McCain

The Navy is confirming that it did receive a request from the White House to keep the USS John McCain "out of sight" during the President's visit to an American base in Japan.

Several days after the initial report in The Wall Street Journal that still unnamed White House officials had asked the United States Navy to hide the USS John McCain from view during President’s visit to an American base in Japan, the Navy has finally acknowledged that it did receive the request:

The U.S. Navy confirmed Saturday that a “request was made” to “minimize the visibility” of the USS John S. McCain during President Donald Trump’s state visit to Japan.

“A request was made to the U.S. Navy to minimize the visibility of USS John S. McCain, however, all ships remained in their normal configuration during the President’s visit,” Rear Adm. Charlie Brown, chief of Navy information, said in a statement.

“There were also no intentional efforts to explicitly exclude Sailors assigned to USS John S. McCain,” the statement said.

The Wall Street Journal first reported Wednesday that the White House wanted to move the destroyer — named partly for the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) — “out of sight” ahead of Trump’s trip to Tokyo earlier this month.

Trump tweeted Wednesday that he “was not informed about anything having to do with the Navy Ship USS John S. McCain during my recent visit to Japan,” and told reporters at the White House on Thursday that whoever was responsible for the request was “well-meaning.”

(…)

“The Navy is fully cooperating with the review of this matter tasked by the Secretary of Defense,” Brown said in his statement Saturday. “Our forward-deployed Naval forces continue to stand ready to execute their assigned missions.”

CNN’s Jake Tapper shared some more details about what happened on his Twitter feed this morning:

Despite the Navy’s denial, it has been reported by several media outlets that unidentified sailors from the USS McCain have verified that they were turned away from the President’s event where he spoke to sailors at the base. It’s not clear, though, if they were turned away by Navy officials or by White House advance people who were controlling access to the event. Although it seems more likely that, if it happened, it was done by people affiliated with the White House. This is especially true given both the manner in which Navy officials have reacted to these reporters and the comments of Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who was recently nominated to be Secretary of Defense, that he would not have authorized compliance with the request had he known about it.

This is hardly the biggest news out there, of course, nor is it the most egregious thing that this Administration has done. It’s an issue because this is just another example of the contempt that this Administration has shown for McCain even after his death. It started of course, with the President’s comment in the early weeks of his campaign for President that he “likes heroes who weren’t captured,” a clear rebuke of the five years that McCain’s five years as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam despite the fact that he could have been released much earlier due to the fact that his father was the Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet at the time. This contempt was also shared by White House aides, including one who made a widely reported joke about McCain dying back in 2018. While Trump thankfully stayed away from McCain’s funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral, he has continued to attack McCain even after his death. Given all of that, it’s not surprising that his aides would request the Navy to block out reminders of the late Senator during the President’s visit. At the very least it’s a sign of just what kind of people Trump hires, and the kind of White House he runs, and none of it bodes well.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Military Affairs, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    You have to read these things not for what they say, but for what they don’t say.

    all ships remained in their normal configuration during the President’s visit

    We didn’t leave the tarp over the stern and we’re not saying anything about where it was berthed.

    There were also no intentional efforts to explicitly exclude Sailors assigned to USS John S. McCain

    They were, inexplicably, excluded. Perhaps, as you speculate, by WH people.

    As I commented on the last post, can you even imagine anyone thinking the Navy should hide the USS Reagan, Bush, or Ford from Obama?

  2. Kit says:

    At the very least it’s a sign of just what kind of people Trump hires, and the kind of White House he runs, and none of it bodes well.

    Oh come on! Credit where credit is due. Some guy has compiled a check list of potential annoyances to the boss that extends as far as checking the names of nearby ships! That might be embarrassing, but it’s nothing compared to the potential national humiliation averted. Pin a metal on that guy!

  3. wr says:

    Did they also explain why they lied about this previously?

  4. mattbernius says:

    But Paul told me this fake news because someone in the media got something wrong that one time.

  5. mattbernius says:

    @wr: The Navy’s response was really carefully worded so that it only addressed whether or not the ship was hidden, not whether it not the request was made.

    So they never directly lied (except potentially through omission).

  6. Gustopher says:

    Clearly, the Trump Administration needs a cabinet level Chief Petty Officer, to manage such pettiness, centralize it, and reduce redundancy.

  7. Gustopher says:

    @Kit: I’m kind of hoping we eventually discover that the idea came from one of the crew — they were given the day off so they wouldn’t be seen, and who wouldn’t want a day off?

    Embarrassing every single person above you in the chain of command, all the way up to the President… bonus!

  8. Joe says:

    @Kit:
    It occurred to me that perhaps his Staff was trying to keep him from bringing up McCain in some random and offensive way. So, yes, give that staffer a gold star.

    Of all the things that Trump did and said during his campaign, I think I remain most surprised/appalled that he survived his comments about McCain. I can imagine ways in which his base could explain away so many of his behaviors, but I have never understood how his base could let this one pass. On the other hand, my former father-in-law, a US carrier Navy pilot in Vietnam and an early and ardent Trump fan, followed that Trump comment by forwarding a lengthy and scathing personal take down of John McCain. Another appalling moment. The echo chamber echoes on.

  9. Kit says:

    @Joe:

    Of all the things that Trump did and said during his campaign, I think I remain most surprised/appalled that he survived his comments about McCain.

    The only good thing to come out of Trump’s victory was the irrefutable validation that all the right-wing talking points since forever were pure crap, never to be allowed a moment’s consideration from now on. Value voters. The moral majority. Patriots. Deficit hawks. Law-and-order types. Constitution fundamentalists. Et cetera. Et cetera. Et cetera. Bullshit all the way down. That clarity was worth something. Maybe not the Republic, but it was worth something.

  10. Gustopher says:

    @Kit: except the Republicans aren’t even ashamed. They just lie. And their talking points will be forever repeated as if they have value.

  11. CSK says:

    It occurs to me that whoever issued this order/directive/request was, as Trump himself said, well-intentioned, only just not in the way Trump thought. I can envision someone thinking, “Oh, sh!t, if Trump sees the name McCain on anything, he’ll flip out, have a tantrum in Japan, and plunge us even further into the depths of international humiliation. Better hide the ship or at least the name so he can’t see it.”

  12. Jax says:

    Somebody should check on Paul. He had it on good authority that this was fake news. 😉