After backlash over his initial response to McCain’s death, he also issued a formal statement in tribute to the late senator, saying he respected his “service to our country.”
White House flags returned to full staff on Monday after a brief tribute to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who died less than two days earlier.
Meanwhile, flags remained lowered at the U.S. Capitol building, just 2 miles east of the president’s official residence and workplace. The buildings had lowered their flags Saturday evening following McCain’s death.
The White House was operating under a protocol of keeping the flag at half-staff for a day and a half following the death of a sitting member of Congress. Anything beyond that would require a presidential proclamation ― a relatively simple order to draft but one that President Donald Trump does not appear to have much interest in.
Presidents typically issue a proclamation when a high-profile figure dies, ordering all public buildings and military bases to fly the U.S. flag at half-staff until the day of interment. Trump did not issue a proclamation for McCain, whose body will be laid to rest Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who controls the Capitol’s flags, told HuffPost in an email Monday that the flags “will remain lowered through the day of internment (sic).”
“President Trump didn’t respond to any shouted questions about McCain or others” when approached by reporters Monday morning, according to a White House pool report.
Trump has done little to hide his disdain for McCain, a former Republican presidential nominee and decorated Vietnam veteran. He infamously mocked McCain’s military record at a political forum in Iowa in the summer of 2015, soon after announcing his bid for president. Trump suggested McCain wasn’t a “war hero” because he had been “captured” during the Vietnam War. McCain was held in North Vietnam as a prisoner of war for over five years after his plane was shot down while he was flying a bombing mission over Hanoi.
McCain’s rebuttals were often more measured than Trump’s brash rhetoric. But he frequently criticized the president’s policies and tone, taking aim at Trump’s friendly relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and famously sinking legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. He reportedly disinvited Trump to his funeral.
Despite an outpouring of tributes from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, Trump tweeted a curt statement Sunday expressing his “deepest sympathies and respect” to McCain’s family. His tweet was met with fierce backlash from veterans and media pundits, including Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume.
“Still not a kind word about McCain himself,” Hume tweeted about Trump’s statement.
Other Twitter users slammed Trump for using a picture of himself in his Instagram post about McCain’s death.
Trump’s apparent refusal to honor McCain with the White House flags didn’t go unnoticed on Twitter either.
This story has been updated with additional context about White House flag protocol.