Trump finally lowers flags to half-staff in McCain’s honor after hours of pressure from veterans, members of Congress

  • The White House on Monday afternoon lowered the flag to half-staff after facing mounting criticism over the decision to raise it earlier in the day so soon after Sen. John McCain’s death on Saturday.
  • “Despite our differences on policy and politics, I respect Senator 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,” President Donald Trump said in a statement.
  • Trump and McCain had a combative relationship, with the president once saying he didn’t think the Arizona senator was a war hero since he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

The White House on Monday afternoon lowered the flag to half-staff after facing mounting criticism from veterans groups and members of Congress over the decision to raise it earlier in the day so soon after Sen. John McCain’s death.

The US Flag Code calls for the flag to be flown at half-staff on the day of a member of Congress’ death and the following day. The Trump administration honored that after McCain’s death on Saturday in his home state of Arizona.

But it has become customary for presidents to sign a proclamation calling for the flag to remain at half-staff until the day of interment for prominent officials and figures. McCain is set to be interred at the US Naval Academy next Sunday.

Reporters discovered early Monday that the flag had been returned to full staff at the White House, the Pentagon, and other government buildings, marking a departure from that tradition. Veterans groups promptly slammed President Donald Trump for the decision.

Veterans groups ripped into Trump for raising the flag on Monday

The American Legion said in a letter to Trump on Monday: “I strongly urge you to make an appropriate presidential proclamation noting Senator McCain’s death and legacy of service to our nation, and that our nation’s flag be half-staffed through his interment.”

American Veterans was more direct in its statement, accusing Trump of disrespecting all veterans by flying the flag at full staff.

“It’s outrageous that the White House would mark American hero John McCain’s death with a two-sentence tweet, making no mention of his heroic and inspiring life,” said Joe Chenelly, the group’s national executive director.

“By lowering flags for not one second more than the bare minimum required by law, despite a long-standing tradition of lowering flags until the funeral, the White House is openly showcasing its blatant disrespect for Senator McCain’s many decades of service and sacrifice to our country as well as the service of all his fellow veterans,” Chenelly added.

Veterans of Foreign Wars also called on the White House to extend the honor of flying the flag at half-staff for McCain.

Meanwhile, there were bipartisan calls from Congress for the flag to be lowered, including from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

‘Despite our differences on policy and politics, I respect Senator John McCain’s service’

Trump ultimately buckled under the pressure and on Monday afternoon released a statement announcing a presidential proclamation to lower the flag.

“Despite our differences on policy and politics, I respect Senator 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,” Trump said.

Trump and McCain never got along

McCain is well-known for his military record and was a decorated Vietnam War veteran.

The Arizona senator famously spent over five years as a prisoner of war in the “Hanoi Hilton” prison in Vietnam, where he was tortured and held in solitary confinement for roughly two years. McCain refused an opportunity for early release during that period over loyalty to his fellow American POWs, and many regard him as a hero for the defiant act.

But Trump once questioned whether McCain was a hero. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump controversially suggested he didn’t think troops who get “captured” could be heroes.

And despite being members of the same party, the two continued to butt heads until McCain’s death.