- There was public outcry when the White House raised its flag to full-staff just two days after the death of Sen. John McCain in August.
- President Donald Trump then issued a proclamation to lower the flags again through the day of McCain’s burial.
- Recently released emails show how the flag debacle caused chaos behind the scenes at the National Park Service.
Newly released emails show the chaos that ensued behind the scenes when the White House decided to raise its flag to full-staff just two days after the death of Sen. John McCain.
While the US flag code only directs to keep the flag at half-staff two days after the death of a member of Congress, presidents usually keep them lowered through that person’s interment by issuing an official proclamation.
President Donald Trump, who often sparred with McCain, did not issue one, so the flag at the White House was raised to full staff the morning of August 27.
The issue was that the National Park Service didn’t seem to get the same memo. The Department of Homeland Security sends NPS officials a daily email saying whether flags should be at full- or half-staff.
E&E News obtained dozens of emails in a Freedom of Information Act request that revealed on the morning of August 27, that email said to keep the flag at half-staff.
Soon, reporters noticed the inconsistencies: most noticeably that the White House had its flag at full-staff, while directly across the National Mall, the flags at the Washington Monument were at half-staff.
Several of the emails E&E reported are queries from multiple news outlets pointing out the differences and asking what the protocol is for lowering flags after the death of a senator.
This prompted another email, sent just after 2 p.m., telling park officials across the country to cancel the previous order and return all flags to full staff.
This was a shock to many.
“OMG I’ve never seen this,” James Gasser, NPS chief of protocol and logistics, wrote in an email to Jeremy Barnum, NPS chief spokesman, in reference to the half-staff cancellation.
But less than 10 minutes later, that email was reversed, and officials were being told to keep their flags at half-staff.
“STOP,” Gasser wrote to Barnum, while forwarding the latest email.
The confusion was finally put to an end at 4 p.m., when the White House released a statement after increased pressure, and Trump issued a presidential proclamation to keep the flag at half-staff until on sunset the day of McCain’s interment.
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