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Here's What the White House Tried to Do to Keep Trump From Seeing the USS John S. McCain

Worried about the president's anger, staffers reportedly asked for the ship to be "out of sight" during his visit to Japan.

by Tim Marcin
May 30 2019, 2:44pm

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Keeping President Donald Trump happy is no easy task. Case in point: White House staff were reportedly so fearful of Trump’s potential for anger that they requested the Navy hide the USS John S. McCain during the president’s visit to Japan over the weekend.

Trump had a longstanding beef with McCain—who died in August—and the White House was seemingly worried about the late senator’s name showing up in pictures of the president. The Wall Street Journal reported that the White House wanted the ship to be “out of sight” for Trump’s visit, while The Washington Post, citing an unnamed Navy official, reported that the White House request led to photos taken Friday of a tarp being placed over the McCain name on the ship. The tarp was reportedly removed on Saturday after senior Navy officials realized what was happening and directed personnel to stop.

The president reportedly wasn’t aware his staff was trying to get the McCain name hidden from photographers — it was more of a preventative measure aimed at keeping him happy. An anonymous White House official told the Post the directive “was made to keep Trump from being upset during the visit.”

Trump has insisted he wasn’t involved in the incident and would not have done it, despite acknowledging he’s not a fan of John McCain. “Somebody did it because they thought I didn’t like him, okay,” Trump said. “They were well-meaning, I will say.”

The Navy, for its part, has insisted that the ship was not hidden during Trump’s visit. Acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters he wasn’t aware of the White House request and would “never dishonor the memory of a great American patriot like Senator McCain” or “disrespect the young men and women that crew that ship.”

On the date of Trump’s visit, sailors aboard the USS McCain — who wear gear with the ship’s insignia — were given the day off. Anonymous Navy service members told the New York Times the McCain sailors weren’t invited to Trump’s speech and that when some showed up anyway, they were turned away, the paper reported.

Even though many months have passed since McCain died, the president’s anger toward the late senator hasn’t subsided. In March, Trump tweeted about the “stains” on his career, for instance.

When the news of the White House request broke, Senator McCain’s daughter, Meghan, tweeted that the president “is a child who will always be deeply threatened by the greatness of my dads [sic] incredible life.”

While the Navy might not have fully complied with the request—and Trump might not have known about it—the whole odd controversy goes to show the great lengths that the White House will go just keep the president from potentially going off.

Cover Image: President Donald Trump talks with reporters before departing on Marine One for the Air Force Academy graduation ceremony, Thursday, May 30, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)