Having tried to ignore the death of Senator John McCain, Donald Trump pouted on Monday before relenting and allowing the White House flag to fly at half-mast until McCain’s interment next Sunday.
Trump mocked and insulted McCain since 1999 — when he said the veteran, held as a POW in North Vietnam for 5 1/2 years, was “no war hero” — refused to acknowledge the Senator directly after McCain passed away on Friday.
White House officials, including most of Trump’s Cabinet, paid tribute, and the building’s flag was lowered to half-mast. But on Monday, after Trump returned from a weekend golfing at his Virginia club, the flag was back to full-mast, breaking the convention of memorial until burial.
At a press appearance to proclaim a trade deal and later at a Cabinet meeting, Trump refused to answer questions, crossing his arms and staring at the reporters as staff tried to usher them out of the room:
"Why won't you say anything about John McCain?"@jonkarl asked Pres. Trump ten times today to comment on Senator John McCain, who passed away this weekend at age 81. The president did not respond. https://t.co/HebITj8csN pic.twitter.com/iwKYhGRaNj
— ABC News (@ABC) August 27, 2018
But by mid-afternoon, after pressure including criticism from veterans’ groups, the White House staff relented and put the flag back at half-mast:
Flag back at half-staff. pic.twitter.com/FS8JA5KLMh
— GeorgeDSanchez (@GeorgeDSanchez) August 27, 2018
Later, a statement was issued in Trump’s name:
Despite our differences on policy and politics, I respect Senator John McCain’s service to our country and, in his honor, have signed a proclamation to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff until the day of his interment.
The statement also said that Vice President Mike Pence will speak at the ceremony honoring McCain at the US Capitol on Friday, that McCain’s remains will have ceremonial military transport from Arizona to Washington, and that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and National Security Advisor John Bolton will represent the Administration at the services at the US Naval Academy.
It did not mention the request of the McCain family that Trump not attend the funeral, or that former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush will be speaking.
A little thread on an episode between John McCain and Donald Trump…from 1996 when McCain fought a federal loan guarantee that Trump very much wanted….
— Shane Goldmacher (@ShaneGoldmacher) August 27, 2018
McCain’s Final Statement
McCain’s family and staff released his final statement on Monday:
Please read my father's farewell letter to the country he loved so much – “Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender.” 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/pwZUR7R3dp
— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) August 27, 2018
The Senator wrote:
We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.
We are 325 million opinionated, vociferous individuals. We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement.