Despite what Donald Trump claimed at the time, the USS John McCain destroyer was partially hidden from view, by orders of the White House, when the then-president visited a Navy base in Japan in 2019, according to new records newly obtained by Bloomberg.
The name on the warship, named for the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), his father and grandfather, who all served in the Navy, was covered with a tarp when Trump visited Yokosuka Naval Base.
Trump insisted at the time that he had nothing to do with hiding the name and that some “well-meaning” person had apparently obscured McCain’s name. But Navy personnel were attempting to at least partially comply with White House orders, which appalled Navy officials, according to the emails, obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request.
“This just makes me sad,” one official said to another in an email.
Trump was a bitter foe of McCain, who lost the 2008 presidential election to Barack Obama. Trump belittled McCain’s sacrifice in the Vietnam War when he was a Navy pilot. McCain was captured and held as a prisoner of war for years in horrific conditions. Trump, who dodged military service by claiming to have bone spurs, disputed that McCain was a hero.
“He was a war hero because he was captured,” Trump scoffed about McCain during a talk in 2015. “I like people who weren’t captured.”
Trump also said he didn’t like “losers.”
(In conversations with his staff after visiting a French war memorial in 2018, Trump reportedly called Americans who were killed in World War I “losers” and “suckers.”)
In an email to the Navy ahead of Trump’s state visit that May, a U.S. Indo-Pacific Command staffer presented a list of demands, including the directive that “USS John McCain needs to be out of sight,” according to the records. The staffer followed up later, demanding: “Please confirm #3 will be satisfied.”
Ultimately, the ship was not hidden, but the McCain name was obscured with a tarp.
The Navy gave all sailors aboard the McCain the day off as Trump visited Yokosuka, the Journal and the Times reported. McCain sailors — whose uniforms included the ship’s insignia — were not invited to hear Trump speak that day, unlike sailors from other U.S. warships at the base, according to the Times, citing several unnamed Navy service members.
Trump insisted that he played no role in covering up the name. He also claimed following his visit that he was “not informed” about any action by his own administration to hide the destroyer.