Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said it was “not unreasonable” for a White House staffer to ask the U.S. Navy to move the USS John S. McCain warship so President Donald Trump wouldn’t have to see it during his visit to a naval base in Japan.
Mulvaney told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that he “absolutely” believes someone from the White House’s advance team made the ask knowing Trump had a contentious relationship with the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a decorated Navy veteran.
“An advance team is hundreds of people,” Mulvaney told host Chuck Todd. “The fact that some 23- or 24-year-old person on the advance team went to that site and said, ‘Oh my goodness, there’s the John McCain. We all know how the president feels about the former senator. Maybe that’s not the best backdrop. Could somebody look into moving it?’ That’s not an unreasonable thing to ask.”
“Seriously?” Todd asked.
Mulvaney doubled down: “It’s not. It’s certainly not.”
The U.S. Navy confirmed Saturday that it was asked to “minimize” the presence of the USS John S. McCain ahead of Trump’s visit to Japan. The 505-foot destroyer was originally named after McCain’s father and grandfather, John S. McCain Jr. and John S. McCain Sr. The Arizona senator was added as a third namesake shortly before his death in 2018.
“A request was made to the U.S. Navy to minimize the visibility of USS John S. McCain, however, all ships remained in their normal configuration during the President’s visit,” Navy Chief of Information Rear Adm. Charlie Brown said in a statement Saturday.
Trump on Thursday said he wasn’t aware of the request, but claimed whoever made it was “well-meaning.”
“I was very angry with John McCain because he killed health care,” Trump told reporters outside the White House. “I was not a big fan of John McCain in any way, shape or form.”
“But I would never do a thing like that,” he added. “Now, somebody did it because they thought I didn’t like him, OK? And they were well-meaning, I will say. I didn’t know anything about it. I would never have done that.”
Mulvaney said Sunday that no one would be fired over the request, which prompted backlash last week from veterans, Democrats and Meghan McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee’s eldest daughter.
“The president’s feelings toward the senator are well known,” Muvlaney told NBC. “To think that you’re going to get fired over this is silly.”