White House ‘asked Navy to hide warship USS John S. McCain’

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USS John S McCain docked in Yokosuka JapanImage copyright
AFP

Image caption

A file photo of the USS John S McCain, which is docked in Yokosuka in Japan

The White House asked for a warship named after Donald Trump’s late rival, Senator John McCain, to be obscured during the president’s trip to Japan, several reports have claimed.

Plans to move the USS John S. McCain out of view are said to have later been scrapped by senior Navy officials.

Mr Trump denied making the request, tweeting that he “was not informed about anything” related to the ship.

The Navy Chief of Information also posted to say it “was not obscured”.

The tweet – its first in five years – added that “the Navy is proud of that ship, its crew, its namesake and its heritage”. However, the statement did not deny that an initial request was made.

The White House has made no official comment on the matter.

The ship, which is docked in the Japanese city of Yokosuka, has been named for the late Mr McCain – a military veteran and the Republican senator for Arizona with whom Mr Trump had a contentious relationship.

Quoting anonymous Navy officials, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the Washington Post newspapers and Reuters news agency all reported that the White House asked for the ship to be obscured during the visit.

The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the claims, cited an email between US military officials which said that the ship “needs to be out of sight”.

The New York Times also reported that the warship’s crew members, who have “USS John S McCain” on their caps, were sent home for the long weekend, along with the crew from another ship.

When some of them turned up to watch the speech anyway, the paper added, they were turned away.

But Acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters that he had been unaware of the incident, adding: “When I read about it this morning, it was the first I heard about it.”

The Navy has said there was nothing untoward in giving the crew time off.

Meghan McCain, Mr McCain’s daughter, tweeted in response to the reports: “Trump is a child who will always be deeply threatened by the greatness of my dad’s 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.”

Trump’s bitter feud with McCain

This all goes back to President Trump’s hostile relationship with the warship’s namesake.

Senator McCain was a military veteran who, during the Vietnam war, was imprisoned and tortured for five-and-a-half years. He also unsuccessfully ran for president twice, most recently against Barack Obama in 2008.

But it was his outspoken criticism of Mr Trump, starting in 2015, that led to a bitter rivalry between them.

During the campaign for the 2016 presidential election, Mr McCain – a fellow Republican – publicly withdrew his support for Mr Trump, accusing him of “firing up the crazies” with his views on immigration.

Less than a month later, President Trump told a campaign event: “He’s a ‘war hero’ because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”

The divide between them didn’t end with Mr Trump’s election victory, however.

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Getty Images

Image caption

The late senator John McCain, pictured in 2017, had an ongoing feud with President Trump

A year into his presidency, in July 2017, Mr Trump introduced a bill to repeal his presidential predecessor’s landmark healthcare legislation, the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare).

The Republicans almost succeeded but, as he battled brain cancer, Mr McCain voted no – scuppering the party’s bid to undo the act.

Even after Mr McCain’s death in August 2018, President Trump has spoken openly of his dislike of the late senator. In March this year, he said: “I was never a fan of John McCain and I never will be.”





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