- According to The Wall Street Journal, the White House requested that the USS John McCain, a guided-missile destroyer bearing the name of the late Republican senator from Arizona, be “out of sight” during President Donald Trump’s tour of Japan this week.
- The US Navy says it did not obscure John McCain’s name on the ship during Trump’s visit.
- A US Indo-Pacific Command official gave instructions for Trump’s trip following discussions with the White House and the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet, according to an email reviewed by The Journal, which reportedly said “USS John McCain needs to be out of sight.”
- Photos seen by The Journal showed the ship’s name was covered with a tarp prior to Trump’s arrival, and sailors reportedly took off coverings that revealed McCain’s name. The tarp was eventually removed.
- US sailors, who wear caps stenciled with the command’s name and insignia, were also allowed to take the day off when Trump arrived, The Journal reported.
- Trump said he was unaware of the developments aboard the ship.
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The White House requested that the USS John McCain, a guided-missile destroyer bearing the name of the late Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, be “out of sight” during President Donald Trump’s tour of Japan this week, according to a Wall Street Journal report published Wednesday.
According to an email reviewed by The Journal, a US Indo-Pacific Command official gave instructions to military officials for Trump’s trip following discussions with the White House and the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet, saying, “USS John McCain needs to be out of sight.”
The Indo-Pacific Command official who sent the email also answered another commander’s surprise at his instructions, according to The Journal, saying, “First I heard of it as well.”
A US official told The Journal that Pat Shanahan, the acting defence secretary, approved the instructions. But Joe Buccino, Shanahan’s spokesman, issued a denial saying the acting defence secretary “was not aware” of the developments, according to the Defence One correspondent Katie Williams.
Photos seen by The Journal showed the ship’s name was covered in a tarp prior to Trump’s arrival, and sailors reportedly took off coverings that revealed McCain’s name. US sailors, who wear caps stenciled with the command’s name and insignia, were also allowed to take the day off when Trump arrived, The Journal reported.
The US Navy denied having obscured McCain’s namesake during the president’s visit. “The name of USS John S. McCain was not obscured during the POTUS visit to Yokosuka on Memorial Day,” the Navy’s public-affairs department said in a statement. “The Navy is proud of that ship, its crew, its namesake, and its heritage.”
A US Navy official told INSIDER that the tarp was not unfurled during Trump’s visit but was briefly up for a “hull preservation” project in the days leading up to the event.
US Navy Cdr. Nate Christensen of US Pacific Fleet told INSIDER that “all ships remained in normal configuration during the president’s visit.”
The Washington Post confirmed some of The Journal’s reporting, however, saying that a senior Navy official was aware of such a request from the White House. Sailors reportedly began covering the ship’s name with a tarp but were stopped after senior officials caught wind of what was happening. The tarp was removed by the time Trump arrived.
According to The Post’s report, which cited a White House official, the White House didn’t want McCain’s name to show up in photographs. The president was not involved in the planning, The Post reported.
McCain’s daughter Meghan, a cohost on ABC’s “The View,” responded to The Journal’s report and rebuked the president.
“Trump is a child who will always be deeply threatened by the greatness of my dads incredible life,” Meghan said in a tweet. “There is a lot of criticism of how much I speak about my dad, but nine months since he passed, Trump won’t let him RIP. So I have to stand up for him.
“It makes my grief unbearable,” she concluded.
Trump said on Wednesday night that he was not told of any such instructions.
“I was not informed about anything having to do with the Navy Ship USS John S. McCain during my recent visit to Japan,” Trump said in a tweet. “Nevertheless, @FLOTUS and I loved being with our great Military Men and Women – what a spectacular job they do!” (@FLOTUS is the Twitter account belonging to the first lady, Melania Trump.)
Read more: The incredible life of John McCain in photos
The USS McCain is undergoing repairs after a collision with a commercial ship that killed 10 sailors in 2017. The incident marked one of several US Navy collisions and groundings that year. US Navy Cmdr. Alfredo Sanchez pleaded guilty of negligence and acknowledged he did not adequately prepare his crew before the collision.
Trump delivered his Memorial Day speech to US troops aboard the USS Wasp on Tuesday local time. The visit was part of a four-day tour of Japan with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“I have to wish you all a very happy Memorial Day,” Trump said. “On this Memorial Day evening in the United States, Americans are concluding a sacred day of remembrance, reflection, and prayer.”
The president and McCain were publicly at odds during the 2016 US presidential campaign. Trump frequently downplayed McCain’s military service and disparaged his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said in 2015. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
The USS McCain was commissioned in 1994 and was initially named after McCain’s father, US Navy Adm. John S. McCain Jr., a former Pacific Command commander, and McCain’s grandfather US Navy Adm. John S. McCain, a World War II carrier-task-force commander. McCain was added to the namesake one month before his death in August.
“As a warrior and a statesman who has always put country first, Sen. John McCain never asked for this honour, and he would never seek it,” US Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said in 2018. “But we would be remiss if we did not etch his name alongside his illustrious forebears, because this country would not be the same were it not for the courageous service of all three of these great men.”
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