John McCain death: Trump lowers White House flag after criticism

Flags at the White House returned to full-staff on Monday, two days after the death of John McCain. Courtesy: BBC

US President Donald Trump has announced that the White House flag will be returned to half-staff, after critics attacked his response to the death of Republican senator John McCain.

Flags at some federal buildings were fully raised on Monday, far earlier than would normally be expected after such an event.

Mr Trump tweeted his condolences to the McCain family, but has not offered a tribute to the veteran’s life.

The pair had a fractious relationship.

Mr Trump appeared to repeatedly ignore media questions about the flag before announcing that it would be lowered again.

He said in a statement: “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.”

He also confirmed reports he will not attend McCain’s funeral next weekend.

The statement said other members of the Trump administration, including his chief of staff and secretary of defence, will attend instead.

Former Presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama will pay tribute to McCain during his funeral ceremony on Saturday at the National Cathedral.

Vice-President Mike Pence will also address a service in McCain’s honour at the capitol on Friday.

What did McCain’s posthumous message say?

Earlier on Monday, before the flag U-turn, McCain family friend Rick Davis read out a posthumous message prepared by the senator before his death from brain cancer on Saturday.

Parts of it could be interpreted as taking aim at President Trump’s policies.

It urged the nation not to “hide behind walls” and said the American people are “a nation of ideals, not blood and soil”.

“We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe,” McCain had said.

“We weaken it when we hide behind walls rather than tear them down.”

McCain also told his country folk: “Do not despair of our present difficulties, but believe always in the promise and greatness of America”.

Who complained about the White House flag?

Traditionally, the death of somebody of McCain’s stature would see flags flying at half-staff until their burial.

The White House was urged by senators of both parties to honour that protocol, and critics asked why a proclamation had not been issued as it was after the deaths of other political figures, such as former First Lady Barbara Bush.

Senior Democrat Chuck Schumer and top Republican Mitch McConnell said the flags on all government buildings should be at half-staff for the late senator until his burial next Sunday.

Flags at the US Capitol and other Washington landmarks remained at half-staff earlier on Monday, but the White House had returned to its usual levels.

Some said the White House was simply following proper procedure, however, because US Flag Code states that flags be lowered “on the day of death and the following day for a Member of Congress”.

Why was there no Trump statement?

The rather sparing statement on Monday was the first from the White House to reference McCain’s death.

None were issued over the weekend, though one was drafted, according to US media.

Instead, both the president and vice-president offered their condolences to the senator’s family via Twitter.

The antipathy between the president and McCain has been well documented since Mr Trump took office.

Earlier this month, when he signed a multi-billion dollar defence bill named after McCain, the president did not say his name.

Mr McCain’s body will lie in state in the Arizona State Capitol on Wednesday and at the US Capitol Rotunda on Friday, giving his colleagues and the public a chance to pay their respects.

He will then be laid to rest on Sunday in a private ceremony at the US Naval Academy chapel.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-45323772