Trump says he lowered the flag for McCain 'without hesitation or complaint,' but a former senior official says 'that is not true'

Photo by Andrew Spear/Getty ImagesPresident Donald Trump
  • The Atlantic reported Thursday that when Sen. John McCain died in 2018, Trump told his staff that “we’re not going to support that loser’s funeral” and was furious when the flags were lowered to honour the senator for his public and military service.
  • Trump denied the report, claiming that he approved the lowering of the flags and funeral services for McCain “without hesitation or complaint.”
  • Former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security Miles Taylor responded to the president’s tweets, writing in his own post “that is not true.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Responding to an article critical of his behaviour, President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday that he approved the lowering of the flags and funeral services for late Sen. John McCain “without hesitation or complaint,” but a former senior Department of Homeland Security official tweeted Friday morning that “this is not true.”

“Mr. President, this is not true,” Miles Taylor, who served as the chief of staff at DHS during this administration, wrote. “You were angry that DHS notified federal buildings to lower the flags for Sen. McCain. I would know because your staff called and told me.”

Taylor has endorsed Biden and is an outspoken critic of the president, who previously called Taylor a “lowlife” after he spoke out about the president’s behaviour and characterised Trump as dangerous.

The president’s tweets followed the publication of an article in The Atlantic calling attention to disparaging comments Trump reportedly made about US service members, specifically those who died in battle, were captured and held as prisoners of war, or suffered serious injuries in combat.

The article, citing multiple sources, says that when McCain passed after a long fight with cancer, Trump told his staff that “we’re not going to support that loser’s funeral” and was furious when the flags were lowered to honour the senator for both his public and military service.

“What the f— are we doing that for? Guy was a f—ing loser,” Trump reportedly said at the time.

In his tweets Thursday, Trump said that he “never called John a loser,” but he did so publicly during a presidential campaign eventin 2015. “I like people who weren’t captured,” Trump said, commenting on the more than five years McCain spent as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, adding, “I don’t like losers.”

He even tweeted about his comments later.

Trump and McCain — who served for years as a senator from Arizona and was the 2008 Republican presidential nominee — butted heads repeatedly on a number of issues.

When McCain died in August 2018, the customary honours were initially withheld. While US Flag Code demands the flag be flown at half-mast on the day a member of Congress passes and the day after, it is customary for presidents to issue a proclamation to lower the flags until the day of interment, as Insider’s John Haltiwanger previously reported.

McCain died on a Saturday, and while flags were flown at half-staff at the Pentagon and White House over the weekend, the flags were returned to full staff on Monday.

The New York Times reported at the time that Trump “stubbornly refused” requests from Vice President Mike Pence and then-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to publicly acknowledge McCain’s death. Veterans groups also pressured the president.

“By lowering flags for not one second more than the bare minimum required by law, despite a long-standing tradition of lowering flags until the funeral, the White House is openly showcasing its blatant disrespect for Senator McCain’s many decades of service and sacrifice to our country as well as the service of all his fellow veterans,” Joe Chenelly, the national executive director of American Veterans wrote in a statement.

Trump finally relented the Monday afternoon following McCain’s death.

“Despite our differences on policy and politics, I respect Senator John McCain’s service to our country and, in his honour, have signed a proclamation to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff until the day of his interment,” he said at around 4 pm that day.

White House officials have also strongly denied the accusations made in the article published in The Atlantic.

White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere tweeted in response that the story is “false,” calling it “just another anonymously sourced story meant to tear down a Commander-in-Chief who loves our military and has delivered on the promises he’s made.”

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