White House Aides Asked Navy To ‘Hide’ USS John McCain During Trump Visit

White House aides asked the Navy to keep the USS John McCain "out of sight" while the President visited a Navy base in Japan earlier this week.

Based on a story first reported by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times is reporting that White House aides asked the Navy to move or otherwise hide the USS John McCain during President Trump’s visit to an American military base in Japan where the ship is currently undergoing repairs:

The White House asked the Navy to hide a destroyer named after Senator John McCain in order to avoid having the ship appear in photographs taken while President Trump was visiting Japan this week, White House and military officials said Wednesday.

Although Navy officials insisted they did not hide the ship, the John S. McCain, they did give all of the sailors aboard the day off on Tuesday as Mr. Trump visited Yokosuka Naval Base.

Two Navy sailors, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said that the McCain sailors were not invited to hear Mr. Trump speak that day aboard the amphibious assault ship Wasp, while sailors from other American warships at the base were.

A Navy service member based on Yokosuka said that all of the American warships in the harbor were invited to send 60 to 70 sailors to hear Mr. Trump’s address, with the exception of the McCain. When several sailors from the McCain showed up anyway, wearing their uniforms with the ship’s insignia, they were turned away, the service member said.

White House aides, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to speak publicly, confirmed the request was made but said that Mr. Trump did not know about it. A United States official said on Wednesday that the White House sent an email to the Navy with the request on May 15.

But the president denied on Twitter on Wednesday night having any involvement: “I was not informed about anything having to do with the Navy Ship USS John S. McCain during my recent visit to Japan.”

(…)

The acting defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, denied knowledge of the White House request. “When I read about it this morning, it was the first I’ve heard about it,” he told reporters on Thursday during an appearance with his Indonesian counterpart in Jakarta. Asked if he planned to order an investigation into the matter, he said, “I want to find out a little bit more.”

The Wasp, an amphibious assault ship that hosts the new F-35B Lightning fighter jets, had actually been in Sasebo, Japan, and was moved to Yokosuka in time for the president’s visit.

The Chief of Naval Information, the public affairs arm of the Navy, posted on Twitter for the first time in five and a half years over the matter. “The name of the U.S.S. John S. McCain was not obscured during the POTUS visit to Yokosuka on Memorial Day,” the Navy said, using an acronym for president of the United States.

CNBC reporter Amanda Macias obtained a copy of the email sent by the White House to the Navy in advance of the President’s visit


As noted, the President denied on Twitter that he was aware of the request from his aides:

In remarks to reporters outside the White House this morning, interestingly enough, Trump said that whoever made the request that the McCain be out of sight was “well-meaning.”

The Navy Chief of Information, meanwhile, says the name of the McCain “was not obscured” during the President’s visit:

Meanwhile, the late Senator’s daughter Meghan had her own say:

As a preliminary matter, it’s worth noting that the USS John McCain, an Arleigh Burgh-class destroyer that was commissioned in 1992 was not originally named for the late Senator. It was named for the Senator’s Grandfather, John S. McCain Sr., a four-star Admiral who served in World War II, and John S. McCain Jr., who fought in World War II while his father was in command and also later achieved the rank of four-star Admiral. McCain Sr. commanded naval forces at crucial battles during the Pacific campaign such as Guadalcanal and Okinawa and was one of the Navy officials on the deck of the USS Missouri for the formal surrender of Japan in September 1945. McCain Jr. meanwhile was the commander of Naval forces during the Vietnam War and it was because of this that Senator McCain was offered the opportunity to go home early after being made a prisoner of war. The late Senator famously declined that opportunity and chose to remain with his fellow Americans until they were all released. In July 2018, just about a month before he passed away, Senator McCain’s name was added to the vessel’s namesake list by the United States Navy.

As for the story itself, while it does not appear that Trump himself was aware of the request from his aides, the fact that it was made at all speaks volumes about this President and the people who work under him. This is, after all, the President who, early in his campaign, disparaged McCain’s military service, a theme he returned to several times during the campaign. The bitterness between the two men continued after the election, with McCain often being a thorn in the Administration’s side on foreign policy and other issues. The most famous example of that, of course, came in 2017 when McCain, who had been undergoing chemotherapy at the time, returned to Washington to deliver a thumbs down vote on one of the many bills that Republicans put forward to try to ‘repeal and replace’ the Affordable Care Act. 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.

Petty? You bet its petty.

Vindictive? Without question.

Childish? Yes, and that’s consistent with the extent to which the President’s aides treat him like a toddler.

But this is the environment that the President has created and which obviously exists among his closest aides.

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. Paine says:

    Trump is like the kid in the It’s a Good Life Twilight Zone episode. His staff want to placate his fragile ego for fear of being wished away into the cornfields. Can’t imagine having to work in such an environment…

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  2. @Paine:

    Excellent analogy.

  3. mattbernius says:

    Trump did not deny this happened, only that he didn’t order it. His words from the presser this morning:

    Trump on the USS John McCain controversy: “I was not a big fan of John McCain in any way, shape or form. He killed healthcare. I was never a fan, but I would never do anything like that. But someone did that, and they were well-meaning. But I would never do anything like that.”

    Source: https://twitter.com/GeoffRBennett/status/1134074544191344640

    So the Navy’s denial seems to only be about one aspect of reporting (covering up of the name), not actually the entire incident.

    For extra points (which you may also be covering) Trump also seemingly admitted today that Russia did actively work to aid him in the election (though he reiterated he did not cooperate with them in this effort). Huh…

  4. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Can you impeach a president for being a morbidly obese baby? No wonder he cuckolds himself to Putin and Kim.
    BTW…Dennison admitted for the first time, this morning, that Putin helped him win the election. Kind of a big deal.

    “…I had nothing to do with Russia helping to get me elected.”

  5. Thomas Hilton says:

    If pettiness and spite could be harnessed as sources of energy, Trump alone would supply this nation’s needs for the next 50 years.

  6. mattbernius says:

    @Thomas Hilton:
    “Freedom Spite”

  7. Paul L. says:

    Debunked. Fake News
    [UPDATE: NAVY AND US PACIFIC FLEET SAYS FAKE NEWS] — Trump says he doesn’t know anything about this new John McCain controversy…

    Sad and fitting legacy for McCain that the ship could not move because it is still being repaired after a female OOD got it rammed by a Chinese freighter.

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  8. Kathy says:

    The revolving-door chiefs of staff have utterly failed him. A competent one would have already hired a stern governess who’d make sure Little Dennison eats his vegetables, goes to bed early, does his homework, and behaves like a civilized person.

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  9. Paul L. says:

    @Paine:
    WhatAboutism The same is true for the staffs of Amy Klobuchar, Shelia Jackson Lee and Maxine Waters.

  10. mattbernius says:

    @Paul L.:
    So you are saying that Trump is lying when he acknowledge that a staffer in the White House made the request. The statement happened in the presser this morning?

    Again: Trump on the USS John McCain controversy: “I was not a big fan of John McCain in any way, shape or form. He killed healthcare. I was never a fan, but I would never do anything like that. But someone did that, and they were well-meaning. But I would never do anything like that.”

    Source: https://twitter.com/GeoffRBennett/status/1134074544191344640

    Why are you calling Trump a liar?

    Oh wait, I get it. You’re saying that it did happen but it was some deep stater who intentionally sabotaged Trump (though the benevolent Trump did say that the request was “well meaning).

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  11. Paul L. says:

    @mattbernius:
    Take the L. I have been burned by taking the media word in good faith like Trump did in your quote.
    See Ian Bremmer’s fake trump quote.

    @chinfo
    The name of USS John S. McCain was not obscured during the POTUS visit to Yokosuka on Memorial Day. The Navy is proud of that ship, its crew, its namesake and its heritage.

  12. Lounsbury says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Indeed, it is perfect.

  13. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Paul L.:
    Do you read the crap you link to? (and what’s with the sexist dig at the OOD?)

    it sounds to me like someone could have been acting proactively given Trump’s tempermental nature.

    That’s exactly what happened. His staff knows he is such a little baby that they tried to keep his ittle-bitty feelings from being hurtsy.
    This is the mangina that you think can stand up to Putin or Kim?
    Frankly…I would have thought that after Mueller made such a fool of you yesterday, you would just skulk away. Your lack of self-pride is kind of embarrassing.

  14. gVOR08 says:

    That’s how he speaks. He doesn’t give you questions, he doesn’t give you orders — he speaks in a code. And I understand the code because I’ve been around him for a decade. – Michael Cohen

    Trump has created an atmosphere. Can you even imagine some sycophant wanting to hide The Bush or the Reagan from Obama?

  15. mattbernius says:

    @Paul L.:
    I totally forgot that because someone did something sometime somewhere you are always right.

    Clearly this video (easily googlable available on multiple newsites) of Trump saying that someone did do that is a deep fakes (at approximately 30 seconds in so you can marvel at the deep fakiness).

    Paul thanks again for the reminder that you are always right. And we are always wrong.

    So remember folks, this didn’t happen and clearly the President Trump who admitted that the request was made by a well meaning person in the White House was a temporary lizard person stand-in because Paul is always right!

  16. Gustopher says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    (and what’s with the sexist dig at the OOD?)

    This is the mangina that you think can stand up to Putin or Kim?

    Last I checked, OTB strips out emojis, but try to picture the eye rolling emoji.

  17. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Paul L.: Stay classy, Paul. [smh]

  18. Paul L. says:

    @gVOR08:
    I wonder why?
    Mission Accomplished.JPG
    john ashcroft statue of justice.jpg

  19. Scott says:

    I haven’t said this in about a year but…. Trump is a classless pig. Always has been; always will be.

  20. CSK says:

    @Scott: And that’s what his fan club loves most about him. Always have; always will.

  21. al Ameda says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Petty? You bet its petty.
    Vindictive? Without question.
    Childish? Yes, and that’s consistent with the extent to which the President’s aides treat him like a toddler.
    But this is the environment that the President has created and which obviously exists among his closest aides.

    This – that – is Trump’s life in summary.
    He’s even worse now than he was 30 to 40 years ago. Now we’re routinely on a daily basis subjected to a man who has experienced a lifetime of being rejected by the Manhattan and Wall Street elites as not being ‘one of them.’
    In so many ways Trump is John Gotti, but without social skills.