The White House coordinated with U.S. Navy officials to move the USS John S. McCain “out of sight” during President Donald Trump’s recent visit to Japan, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported Wednesday.
The Journal, which first reported the story, obtained a copy of an email from an official with the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. In the note, the unnamed official said he had coordinated with the White House before Trump’s visit and asked other officials working with the Navy and Air Force to comply with instructions for the president’s trip.
“USS John McCain needs to be out of sight,” the email read, listing the request as the third provision in the note. “Please confirm #3 will be satisfied.”
The Navy gave all sailors aboard the ship the day off on Tuesday as Trump visited Yokosuka Naval Base, the Journal and the Times reported. The ship is named in honor of three generations of McCains, who all share the name and served in the Navy.
McCain sailors were not invited to see Trump speak that day, unlike sailors from other American warships at the base, the Times reported, citing several unnamed Navy service members.
The White House and the Pentagon did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment.
Amid the reports, Trump wrote a message on Twitter saying he was “not informed” of the request but “loved being with our great Military Men and Women” during his visit.
White House aides confirmed to the Times that the request was made, but insisted the president did not know about it.
Trump told reporters Thursday that he “didn’t know a thing about” McCain sailors being turned away from seeing him speak.
“I would never have done that,” the president said. He added, however, that the request to bar them was “well-meaning.”
The Washington Post reported Thursday that the White House asked Navy officials to keep the McCain out of pictures during Trump’s visit, citing unnamed Pentagon and White House officials.
McCain died last August, but that hasn’t stopped Trump from constantly lobbing attacks at the career politician. The president regularly lambastes McCain over his “no” vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act.
McCain’s daughter Meghan McCain commented on the Journal’s report later on Wednesday, saying the president’s antipathy toward her father made her “grief unbearable.”
“Trump is a child who will always be deeply threatened by the greatness of my dads incredible life,” McCain tweeted. “There is a lot of criticism of how much I speak about my dad, but nine months since he passed, Trump won’t let him RIP. So I have to stand up for him.”
The USS John McCain is being repaired in Japan after a collision in 2017, and the Journal notes that moving the warship would have been difficult. The outlet reviewed photos from just before Trump’s visit and found that tarps hung over the ship’s name at times and that a barge was later moved to obscure it so it wouldn’t be instantly recognizable.
The Navy’s chief of information contradicted those claims, however, saying the ship’s name was never obscured and that the military was proud of its “namesake and heritage.” A spokesman for acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan also said the secretary was not aware of the effort, “nor was he aware of the concern precipitating the directive.”
Trump visited Japan this week on an official state visit and was met with great fanfare by the country’s government. He also became the first foreign leader to meet with Japanese Emperor Naruhito, who was enthroned earlier this month.
This article has been updated with a response from the Navy and to indicate that the ship is also named after the senator’s father and grandfather.