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White House wanted USS John McCain ‘out of sight’ during Trump trip: report

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The White House requested the USS John McCain (DDG-56), a naval guided-missile destroyer named after the late Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, to be “out of sight” during President Donald Trump’s recent tour of Japan, according to a Wall Street Journal report published Wednesday.

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, saying, “USS John McCain needs to be out of sight.”

The email was sent to US Navy and Air Force officials, and other instructions for Trump’s arrival were reportedly included in the email, including helicopter landing procedures.

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.”

Pat Shanahan, the acting defense secretary, approved the instructions, a US official said to The Journal.

The Navy reportedly took several efforts to obscure McCain’s namesake: 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. The tarp was eventually removed and a barge moved closer to the destroyer, though it’s unclear what the specific purpose of moving the barge was.

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.

Meghan McCain, daughter of the late senator and co-host of ABC’s “The View,” responded to the 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 added.

Trump claimed on Wednesday night that he was unaware of the reported 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, [First Lady Melania Trump] and I loved being with our great Military Men and Women – what a spectacular job they do!”

Read more: The incredible life of John McCain in photos

Former Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
Joshua Lott/Getty Images

The USS McCain is currently undergoing repairs after a collision with a commercial ship that killed 10 sailors in 2017. The incident marked the fourth collision that year. US Navy Cmdr. Alfredo Sanchez pleaded guilty of negligence and admitted he did not adequately prepare his crew prior to the crash.

Trump delivered his Memorial Day speech to the US troops aboard the USS Wasp on Tuesday local time. The visit marked the end of his four-day tour of Japan with Prime Minister Shinzō 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 infamously at odds during the 2016 US presidential campaign. Trump frequently downplayed McCain’s military service and disparaged his time as a Vietnam War-era prisoner-of war.

“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 US Navy Adm. John S. McCain, Jr., a former Pacific Command commander, and his father, US Navy Adm. John S. McCain, a World War II carrier task force commander. Sen. McCain, was added to the namesake one month prior to his death in August 2018.

“As a warrior and a statesman who has always put country first, Sen. John McCain never asked for this honor, 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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