White House lowers flag back to half-mast in honour of John McCain following widespread criticism

The president says the flag will stay lowered until the Senator's burial 

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Monday 27 August 2018 22:39 BST
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The White House has once again lowered its flag to half-mast in honour of John McCain after being criticised for raising it too soon.

The Arizona Senator died over the weekend after undergoing treatment for brain cancer. After the 81-year-old’s death, the White House lowered the flag atop the president’s residence and Donald Trump tweeted a brief condolence message to the senator’s family. Less than 48 hours later, the flag was back up.

On Monday, after a volley of criticism over what was perceived as a lack of respect to the family of Mr McCain – the two men shared a mutual dislike of each other – Mr Trump ordered the flag be restored to half-staff and he issued an official statement on Mr McCain’s death. The White House had not done earlier at the direction of Mr Trump.

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

The president said he has asked Vice President Mike Pence to make a statement on his behalf during a ceremony later this week at the US Capitol, where Mr McCain will lie in state.

“At the request of the McCain family, I have also authorised military transportation of Senator McCain’s remains from Arizona to Washington, DC, military pallbearers and band support, and a horse and caisson transport during the service at the United States Naval Academy,” the statement read.

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The president will not be attending the funeral but noted he had asked his chief of staff John Kelly, Defence Secretary James Mattis, National Security Adviser John Bolton to represent the administration.

Former Presidents Barack Obama and George W Bush will be in attendance as well.

According to the Associated Press, the US flag code states flags should be lowered “on the day of death and the following day for a Member of Congress”. However, when longtime Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy died in 2009,Mr Obama had ordered the flag to stay at half-staff for four days until the Senator’s interment.

The White House has not yet responded to a request for comment on why the flag had been raised ahead of Mr McCain’s interment.

Mr Trump and Mr McCain had an openly contentious relationship despite being in the same political party.

The longtime public servant, Navy officer, Vietnam war prisoner of war, and 2008 presidential nominee was seen as representing the old guard of the party and butted heads with the president’s brash style of campaigning and leadership.

In 2015, Mr Trump came under fire for saying Mr McCain was “not a war hero...I like people who weren’t captured”.

However, when it came to voting in the Senate, Mr McCain was a reliable party voter, particularly in the last 18 months on controversial matters like healthcare reform.

He was, however, labelled a “maverick” for his moderate stance on immigration and campaign finance reform.

Mr Trump’s proclamation also stated all flags will remain at half-staff at “all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, on the day of interment”.

US embassies and consulates have also been ordered to follow suit.

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