In the wake of John McCain’s passing last summer, Donald Trump made no real effort to hide his contempt for the late senator, taking cheap and unnecessary shots at the Arizonan for months. Over the last couple of months, this has intensified in unexpected ways.
In March, for example, Trump lashed out at McCain for his grades at the Naval Academy, his opposition to a far-right health care gambit, and his willingness to turn the Steele dossier over to the FBI (which, incidentally, the president lied about). A couple of days later, Trump kept the offensive going during a White House visit with a foreign leader.
It’s against this backdrop that the Wall Street Journal published a striking new report last night.
The White House wanted the U.S. Navy to move “out of sight” the warship USS John S. McCain ahead of President Trump’s visit to Japan, according to an email reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. […]
In a May 15 email to U.S. Navy and Air Force officials, a U.S. Indo-Pacific Command official outlined plans for the president’s arrival that he said had resulted from conversations between the White House Military Office and the Seventh Fleet of the U.S. Navy. In addition to instructions for the proper landing areas for helicopters and preparation for the USS Wasp – where the president was scheduled to speak – the official issued a third directive: “USS John McCain needs to be out of sight.”
“Please confirm #3 will be satisfied,” the official wrote.
It quickly became obvious that moving the warship wasn’t a realistic option given its ongoing repairs, so according to the WSJ’s account, accommodations were made: ahead of Trump’s trip, a tarp was placed over the ship’s name. What’s more, sailors on board “were directed to remove any coverings from the ship that bore its name.”
The article added, “After the tarp was taken down, a barge was moved closer to the ship, obscuring its name. Sailors on the ship, who typically wear caps bearing its name, were given the day off during Mr. Trump’s visit, people familiar with the matter said.”
The Washington Post published a related report this morning, confirming that the White House made this specific request.
It’s important to emphasize that Defense Department officials pushed back against some of the WSJ report’s details in interviews with NBC News. What’s more, the president himself wrote on Twitter, “I was not informed about anything having to do with the Navy Ship USS John S. McCain during my recent visit to Japan.”
Of course, just because Trump denies something doesn’t mean it’s false. What’s more, whether the president was directly “informed” of the White House’s directive is a separate question from whether the directive was sent.
But let’s consider a charitable scenario. Let’s say White House officials pressed the military to move the USS McCain “out of sight” ahead of Trump’s trip, but the president himself was not aware of the request and played no part in the instructions.
By this reasoning, Trump’s own staff believes he’s such a delicate snowflake that they went to considerable lengths to ensure their boss wouldn’t even see the name “John McCain.”