President Donald Trump told reporters Thursday that he knew nothing about a reported White House request to have a ship bearing the name of the late Sen. John McCain obscured during his Memorial Day weekend trip to Japan.
According to The Wall Street Journal, a U.S. Indo-Pacific Command official sent military officials an email May 15 containing instructions surrounding Trump's arrival that "had resulted from conversations between the White House Military Office and the Seventh Fleet of the U.S. Navy."
"USS John McCain needs to be out of sight," wrote the email's author, whom the Journal did not identify by name.
Update 9:10 a.m. EDT May 30: Trump told reporters he wasn't involved in the reported request to obscure the warship.
“To me, John McCain -- I wasn’t a fan but I would never do a thing like that,” Trump said. “Now, somebody did it because they thought I didn’t like him. They were well-meaning, I will say.”
"I would never do a thing like that"— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) May 30, 2019
Trump says he was unaware of the request to move warship USS John McCain before his visit to Japan pic.twitter.com/w5NLqDVln6
Original report: Multiple media outlets, including The Associated Press, New York Times and Washington Post, later confirmed the Journal's report.
NEW: The White House wanted the USS John McCain “out of sight” for Trump’s visit to Japan. A tarp was hung over the ship’s name ahead of the trip, and sailors—who wear caps bearing the ship’s name—were given the day off for Trump’s visit. w/@gluboldhttps://t.co/6ugPceCOre pic.twitter.com/KuIoWJK5Kt— Rebecca Ballhaus (@rebeccaballhaus) May 29, 2019
The warship, which was damaged in a deadly 2017 collision and is still being repaired, is named after McCain, his father and his grandfather. The Arizona senator was a frequent Trump critic before his death in 2018.
The Journal reported that "a tarp was hung over the ship's name ahead of the president's trip" and a paint barge "was moved closer to the ship, obscuring its name," but were removed before Trump arrived, officials said.
"Senior Navy officials in Hawaii and Japan last week determined the ships should remain in their normal configuration," an unnamed U.S. official told the newspaper.
When asked why a photo from the scene showed the tarp and barge by the ship, Rear Adm. Charlie Brown, chief of information for the U.S. Navy, tweeted that the picture was taken before Trump arrived.
"The name of USS John S. McCain was not obscured during the POTUS visit to Yokosuka on Memorial Day," Brown tweeted. "The Navy is proud of that ship, its crew, its namesake and its heritage."
The name of USS John S. McCain was not obscured during the POTUS visit to Yokosuka on Memorial Day. The Navy is proud of that ship, its crew, its namesake and its heritage.— Navy Chief of Information (@chinfo) May 30, 2019
That photo is not from the day of the POTUS visit (Monday in Japan, Sunday in US), as the WSJ report itself mentions.— Navy Chief of Information (@chinfo) May 30, 2019
The Journal also reported that the ship's sailors "were given the day off" during the president's appearance Tuesday; however, CNN, citing unnamed officials, reported that crews from the USS McCain and another ship, the USS Stethem, "had all been given four-day Memorial Day weekend passes" and weren't invited to hear Trump speak Tuesday "because there wasn't enough room."
Although an unnamed U.S. official told the Journal that Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan knew of the concerns about the ship, his spokesman told the AP that Shanahan "was not aware of the directive to move the USS John S McCain nor was he aware of the concern precipitating the directive."
In a Wednesday night tweet, Trump denied any knowledge of the situation.
"I was not informed about anything having to do with the Navy Ship USS John S. McCain during my recent visit to Japan," Trump wrote. "Nevertheless, @FLOTUS and I loved being with our great Military Men and Women – what a spectacular job they do!"
I was not informed about anything having to do with the Navy Ship USS John S. McCain during my recent visit to Japan. Nevertheless, @FLOTUS and I loved being with our great Military Men and Women - what a spectacular job they do!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 30, 2019
Meanwhile, the late senator's daughter, Meghan McCain, lashed out at the president in her own tweet.
"Trump is a child who will always be deeply threatened by the greatness of my dads incredible life," she wrote. "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."
She added: "It makes my grief unbearable."
Trump is a child who will always be deeply threatened by the greatness of my dads incredible life. 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.— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) May 30, 2019
It makes my grief unbearable. https://t.co/gUbFAla1VE
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