- The Pentagon warned the White House against politicizing the military after White House officials asked the Navy to hide the destroyer USS John S. McCain to keep the president, whose disdain for the late Sen. John McCain is well-known, from getting upset.
- The White House, however, has played this off as no big deal, with the president describing the personnel involved as “well-meaning” and the acting chief of staff arguing that the request was “not an unreasonable thing.”
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The Pentagon rebuked the White House this weekend over a request that a destroyer named after the late Sen. John McCain, as well as his father and grandfather, be hidden to avoid upsetting President Donald Trump during a recent visit to a US naval base in Japan.
Before Trump’s visit to Fleet Activities Yokosuka for Memorial Day, the White House Military Office contacted US 7th Fleet to request that the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain be “out of sight.” The Navy ultimately did not comply with the request.
Acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan “directed his chief of staff to speak with the White House military office and reaffirm his mandate that the Department of Defence will not be politicized,” Lt. Col. Joe Buccino, a Pentagon spokesman, told Reuters on Sunday.
“The chief of staff reported that he did reinforce this message,” Buccino added.
Shanahan, who has been tapped to become the new defence secretary, emphasised in his talks with reporters that “there is no room for politicizing the military,” according to Reuters. The Department of Defence has said Shanahan was not aware of the initial White House request.
Trump tweeted last week that he “was not informed about anything having to do with” the McCain, a point he reiterated to reporters. He insisted that he would never do something like that, adding that he “couldn’t care less.”
He characterised the actions of the White House personnel involved in the incident as “well-meaning,” saying that “they thought they were doing me a favour because I’m not a fan of John McCain.”
The acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, also defended those involved and argued that the White House did nothing wrong.
“The fact that some 23-, 24-year-old person on the advance team went to that site and said, ‘Oh my goodness, here’s the John McCain. We all know how the president feels about the former senator. Maybe that’s not the best backdrop. Can somebody look into moving it?’ – that’s not an unreasonable thing,” Mulvaney said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”
Mulvaney added that no one would be fired over the incident.
“To think that you’re going to get fired over this is silly,” he said.
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