Donald Trump chose to tweet John McCain tribute 'after barring official White House statement'

Many on social media criticised the president for his response Mr McCain's death

Kimberley Richards
New York
Monday 27 August 2018 21:30 BST
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Senator John McCain
Senator John McCain (Reuters)

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In the wake of John McCain’s death, Donald Trump reportedly decided to forgo the release of an official White House statement, as the White House flag noticeably returned to full-staff less than 48 hours after the Arizona senator’s death. The two have had a publicly strained relationship for years.

According to a report by the Washington Post, the US president informed senior aides that he would issue a tweet on Mr McCain’s death instead of approving the release of an official White House statement.

Mr Trump, who had a contentious relationship with Mr McCain, tweeted about the senator’s death but notably omitted mention of his service in the military or Senate. Mr McCain died on Saturday at age 81 following treatment for brain cancer.

“My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain,” Mr Trump wrote on Twitter. “Our hearts and prayers are with you!”

Sources familiar with the matter told the Post that White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Chief of Staff John Kelly, among other White House aides, recommended the release of a statement lauding Mr McCain as a “hero”.

But Mr Trump decided to issue a relatively brief tweet instead, which did not directly use his name.

By contrast, other political and public figures, on both sides of the aisle, shared statements carrying more accolades for the senator. Former President Barack Obama referred to Mr McCain as courageous; House Speaker Paul Ryan called him a “decorated war hero”.

Mr Trump previously received public backlash while on the campaign trail in 2015 when he insulted Mr McCain’s military service saying he was “not a war hero” because he was captured. And their markedly tense relationship has continued since.

Following Mr Trump’s joint press conference with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki last month, where Mr Trump refused to condemn Russia for meddling in the 2016 presidential election, Mr McCain called the US president’s performance “disgraceful”.

Photograph of Trump colouring in the American flag incorrectly goes viral

After Mr McCain died on Saturday, the White House lowered its flags to mark the senator’s passing at half-staff. The US flag code states that flags be lowered “on the day of death and the following day for a Member of Congress,” according to the Associated Press.

The flags at the White House, however, had since been returned to full-staff, while flags at other government buildings, like Capitol Hill, remained at half-staff.

The Independent has reached out to the White House for comment and has not immediately heard back.

Conversely, after Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy died in 2009, Mr Obama issued a proclamation on 26 August ordering the flags be lowered at half-staff until sunset of 30 August that year, the day of his interment.

Mr Obama and Former President George W. Bush are expected to speak at Mr McCain’s funeral.

Later Monday afternoon, and amid widespread criticism that the White House flag had returned to full-staff, Mr Trump issued a proclamation that the White House flag be flown at half-staff until the senator's interment. He also released a statement from the White House stating his "respect" for Mr McCain's service to the US – despite their differences in "policy and politics".

When asked over the weekend whether the US president will attend the funeral, Ms Huckabee Sanders told TMZ she’ll keep the public “posted”.

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