Update: Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters on Sunday that the White House Military Office coordinated directly with the Navy’s Seventh Fleet to conceal the USS John S. McCain from Trump’s view, according to CNN.
The Pentagon has sent a message to President Donald Trump: The Defense Department will not be politicized.
The Pentagon sent its message to the White House in the aftermath of an incident in which officials at the White House military office reportedly directed the USS John S. McCain to be kept out of sight while Trump delivered a speech in Japan, according to Reuters. Although the order was not followed after senior officials at the Navy learned about it and pushed back, the incident has raised concerns about whether Trump is improperly politicizing the military.
In a statement, Lieutenant Colonel Joe Buccino said that “[Acting] Secretary [of Defense Patrick] Shanahan directed his chief of staff to speak with the White House military office and reaffirm his mandate that the Department of Defense will not be politicized.”
He added, “The chief of staff reported that he did reinforce this message.”
Shanahan told reporters that, after reviewing the incident, he did not believe it would be necessary to call for an inspector general investigation. That said, he made it clear that he did not believe political use of the military is appropriate.
“There is no room for politicizing the military,” Shanahan told reporters.
The attempt to obstruct the USS John S. McCain from the president’s view was met with fierce criticism from both sides of the aisle, most notably the late Arizona senator’s daughter, “The View” co-host Meghan McCain.
“The president’s actions have consequences. And when you repeatedly are attacking my father… it creates a culture in the military where people are clearly fearful to show my father’s name in one way or another. That is what started this chain of events,” McCain told her audience on Thursday.
McCain also discussed how she has received criticism from “across the board” over “how often I speak of my father, how I grieve, how I do it publicly.”
She insisted that “it’s impossible to go through the grief process when my father, who has been dead for 10 months, is constantly in the news cycle, because the president is so obsessed with the fact that he is never going to be a great man like he was.”
She added, “It’s a bizarre way to grieve. It’s a bizarre way to say goodbye to my dad.”
She also discussed how Trump’s repeated attacks on her father since his death have made it more difficult for her to effectively grieve his loss.
“This is very hard. I try to put on a game face every day, and I try and be as stoic as possible but grief is tricky . . . And when Trump is doing this, it makes it that much harder,” McCain explained.
The previous night, the younger McCain posted on Twitter that Trump was acting like a “child” in his actions regarding the late McCain.
“Trump is a child who will always be deeply threatened by the greatness of my dads [sic] incredible life,” Meghan 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 feud between Trump and McCain goes all the way back to the 2016 election cycle, when Trump infamously claimed that McCain wasn’t a war hero because he had been captured.