“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.”
Original report: Multiple media outlets, including The Associated Press, New York Times and Washington Post, later confirmed the Journal's report.
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 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!"
>> See the tweet here
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."
>> See her tweet here
Read more here.