Donald Trump orders White House flags back to half-staff for John McCain’s death

August 27, 2018 GMT

President Trump ordered flags at the White House lowered to half-staff again Monday to mark the death of Sen. John McCain after heavy criticism from veterans groups and others.

Mr. Trump said in a statement, “Despite our differences on policy and politics, I respect Senator John McCain’s service to our country and, in his honor, have signed a proclamation to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff until the day of his interment.”

The president also said he has asked Vice President Mike Pence to speak at a ceremony honoring Mr. McCain at the Capitol on Friday.

And at the request of the McCain family, Mr. Trump ordered military transportation of Mr. McCain’s remains from Arizona to Washington, D.C., with military pallbearers and band support, and a horse and caisson transport during the service at the United States Naval Academy.

Finally, the president asked White House chief of staff John F. John Kelly, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis, and White House national security adviser John R. Bolton to represent the administration at his services.

The president’s about-face came after two of the nation’s largest veterans groups called on Mr. Trump Monday to show more respect to Mr. McCain by ordering all U.S. flags to be flown at half-staff, including at the White House.

The American Legion and AMVETS urged the White House to follow long-established tradition following the death of prominent government officials, and keep flags flying at half-staff until Mr. McCain’s interment on Sunday. The White House had raised its flags to full staff Monday after flying them at half-staff Saturday night and Sunday after the death of the 81-year-old former Vietnam prisoner of war.

American Legion National Commander Denise Rohan reminded Mr. Trump in a letter that he issued presidential proclamations earlier this year calling for flags to fly at half-staff for extended periods to mark the deaths of former first lady Barbara Bush and the Rev. Billy Graham.

“Senator John McCain was an American hero and cherished member of The American Legion,” Ms. Rohan wrote. “As I’m certain you are aware, he served five and a half years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam and retired from the U.S. Navy at the rank of captain. He then served in the U.S. Congress for more than three decades.”

“On the behalf of The American Legion’s two million wartime veterans, I strongly urge you to make an appropriate presidential proclamation noting Senator McCain’s death and legacy of service to our nation, and that our nation’s flag be half-staffed through his internment,” she wrote.

AMVETS said Mr. McCain deserved a longer-lasting show of respect from the White House.

“It’s outrageous that the White House would mark American hero John McCain’s death with a two-sentence tweet, making no mention of his heroic and inspiring life,” Joe Chenelly, AMVETS national executive director, said in a statement. “By lowering flags for not one second more than the bare minimum required by law, despite a long-standing tradition of lowering flags until the funeral, the White House is openly showcasing its blatant disrespect for Senator McCain’s many decades of service and sacrifice to our country as well as the service of all his fellow veterans.”

In the proclamation issued Monday afternoon, Mr. Trump ordered U.S. flags to be flown at half-staff until sunset on Sunday, when Mr. McCain will be buried at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. The president said he was doing so “as a mark of respect for the memory and longstanding service of Senator John Sidney McCain III.”