WASHINGTON — The White House wanted the U.S. Navy to keep a warship named for the late Sen. John McCain "out of sight" during President Donald Trump's trip to Japan, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, citing an email it reviewed.
A U.S. Indo-Pacific Command official, in a May 15 email to U.S. Navy and Air Force officials, detailed plans for Trump's arrival over Memorial Day weekend that included instructions for the proper landing areas for helicopters and preparations for the USS Wasp, the ship on which the president was to speak, the newspaper reported.
The official then issued a third instruction: "USS John McCain needs to be out of sight," according to the email.
When a Navy commander expressed surprise at the instruction, the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command official answered, "First I heard of it as well," according to the email. The official said he would talk to the White House Military Office to get more information about the directive, the Journal reported.
In response to the story, Trump — who has feuded with McCain publicly for years, including by mocking his military service — tweeted that he "was not informed about anything having to do with the Navy Ship USS John S. McCain during my recent visit to Japan."
The president notably does not say that he was not informed about the ship before his visit to Japan. A message seeking clarification was left late Wednesday for White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.
The newspaper reported that a tarp was placed over the McCain's name before Trump's arrival, according to photos it reviewed, and that sailors were instructed to remove any coverings from the ship that included its name.
U.S. Navy Cdr. Clay Doss, spokesman for U.S. Seventh Fleet, told The Associated Press that the tarp was on the ship on Friday but was removed by Saturday morning, the day Trump arrived. He said, "All ships remained in normal configuration during the President's visit."
Trump and McCain had a frosty relationship and that continued, on Trump's part, even after McCain died in August 2018 of brain cancer.
In 2015, McCain, a Republican senator from Arizona, had gotten under then-candidate Trump's skin by saying he had "fired up the crazies" at a rally in Phoenix. Trump, also a Republican, later told a crowd in Iowa that McCain was only a war hero "because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured."
After Trump took office, McCain established himself as a leading critic, opposing Trump's immigration-limiting order, warning him against coziness with Moscow and lecturing him on the illegality of torture. The senator incensed the president with his thumbs-down vote that foiled the president's efforts to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law.
Trump was not welcome at McCain's funeral and raised the White House's U.S. flag back to full-staff shortly after McCain's death, despite U.S. Flag Code stating that it should remain at half-staff for another day. The flag returned to half-staff later in the day.
McCain's daughter, Meghan, tweeted Wednesday that Trump will "always be deeply threatened by the greatness of my dads incredible life."
She added, "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."