President Trump on Monday issued a formal statement following the death of Senator John McCain after drawing bipartisan rebuke from veterans groups, legislators and pundits alike.
In a Monday proclamation, Trump said: "Despite our differences on policy and politics, I respect Sen. 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."
NEW: Pres. Trump issues proclamation on McCain:— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) August 27, 2018
"Despite our differences on policy and politics, I respect Sen. 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." pic.twitter.com/mJdFaKf51T
Trump also "authorized military transportaion of Senator McCain's remains from Arizona to Washington D.C., military pallbearers and band support, and a horse and caisson transport during the service at the United States Naval Academy."
Vice President Mike Pence was asked to offer an address at a Friday ceremony at the Capitol, and called for the attendance of Chief of Staff John Kelly, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Ambassador John Bolton "to represent my administration at his services."
McCain and Trump had a markedly acrimonious relationship, which included McCain withdrawing support for Trump during the 2016 US election, the hand-delivery of the infamous "Steele Dossier" to former FBI Director James Comey, and casting the deciding vote which killed the repeal of Obamacare.
Trump's reversal also follows a report by the Washington Post that Trump initially rejected recommendations to issue an official statement from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Chief of Staff John Kelly and other White House aides - instead opting on Saturday to fire off a terse tweet offering "deepest sympathies."
My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 26, 2018
Moreover, after spending the weekend following McCain's death at half-staff, the White House flag was hoisted to full staff on Monday morning - only to be lowered again to half-staff upon Trump's proclamation.
Flag back at full staff atop WH. Pres Trump did not issue proclamation on the death of @SenJohnMcCain, which usually calls for flags to remain at half-staff through the day of interment, which is Sunday at the @NavalAcademy. pic.twitter.com/NGasNPT0VB— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) August 27, 2018
The flag at the White House, now at half-staff again. pic.twitter.com/K4I6Cwk3kj— Jeff Mason (@jeffmason1) August 27, 2018
In response to Trump's treatment of McCain, veterans group AMVETS issued a statement over Twitter calling for him to reverse course:
1️⃣/ AMVETS is deeply disappointed in the lack of traditional and appropriate respect in the White House’s reaction to the death of U.S. Senator John S. McCain III, the retired Navy captain and former prisoner of the Vietnam war, who gave 60 years of honorable service to [...]— AMVETS (@AMVETSHQ) August 27, 2018
2️⃣/ his country.— AMVETS (@AMVETSHQ) August 27, 2018
Traditionally, the death of a sitting United States senator would be met with a presidential proclamation and flags flying at half-staff throughout the country until the funeral of the deceased. This follows national tradition, as shown after the [...]
3️⃣/ deaths of Senators Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd. But John McCain was not just a sitting senator. He was a war hero, twice a presidential contender, and a national treasure who devoted his entire adult life to protecting and improving the American way of life. pic.twitter.com/Qtf3OQnpAG— AMVETS (@AMVETSHQ) August 27, 2018
4️⃣/ AMVETS is calling on the White House to show appropriate respect for the passing of Sen. McCain, and absent that, AMVETS is calling on state and territory governors nationwide to issue proclamations honoring the life and service of Sen. McCain and to lower flags for [...]— AMVETS (@AMVETSHQ) August 27, 2018
5️⃣/ an appropriate length of time.— AMVETS (@AMVETSHQ) August 27, 2018
AMVETS also supports a bipartisan proposal to rename the Russell Senate Office Building in honor of @SenJohnMcCain .