June 2 (UPI) — The U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet directly received a request from the White House Military Office to keep the U.S. John McCain from view during President Donald Trump’s visit to Japan last week, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Sunday.
Shahahan, speaking to reporters traveling with him to Seoul, South Korea, said the request wasn’t carried out.
Originally, the Pentagon boss told CNN the request was made to lower-level officials.
Rear Adm. Charlie Brown, chief of Navy information, acknowledged earlier this weekend in a statement that a request was made “to minimize the visibility” of the guided-missile destroyer but noted that “all ships remained in their normal configuration” during Trump’s visit.
he Seventh Fleet, headquartered in Yokosuka, Japan, manages 70-80 ships and submarines, 140 aircraft and approximately 40,000 sailors and Marines in the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean, according to the Navy.
Shanahan said Sunday he doesn’t initially plan to call for an inspector general investigation investigation into the request. But he might change his mind once he gets back to Washington, D.C. and reviews the matter, including with Pentagon staff. Shanahan told reporters he wants to know “when this information came in, how was it dealt with?”
Shanahan said Sunday “there’s no room for politiciziing the military,” which he also answered Friday when asked about the controversy.
He also acknowledged to reporters he had spoken over the phone with McCain’s widow, Cindy McCain, but declined to divulge any details.
Shanahan said he hadn’t spoke with Trump about the White House Military Office actions.
On Thursday, Trump told the media at the White House that he had no knowledge of the plan and wouldn’t have approved that request but he “is not a big fan” of McCain and whoever did it was “well meaning.”
On Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal cited emails dated May 15 saying the “USS John McCain needs to be out of sight” when Trump visits Yokosuka on Memorial Day.
Trump has criticized McCain when he was alive and after his death last year, noting his vote to preserve the Affordable Care Act.
The ship is named after the long-time senator from Arizona, and originally his father and grandfather, who all served in the Navy.
Because the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer is undergoing repairs after colliding with another ship in 2017, it wasn’t possible to move the vessel.
Shanahan denied a report by The Wall Street Journal a cover was used to block the ship’s name because it could not be moved due to repairs. He said the tarp was for “hull preservation and not to obscure the name.”
The Journal also reported sailors who typically wear caps with the ship’s name were given the day off.
Shanahan said that McCain’s sailors were given a 96-hour Memorial Day weekend leave that Shanahan said was unrelated to the president’s visit.
Also Sunday, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney defended the administration’s advance team request in NBC’s Meet the Press.
“The fact that some 23-, 24-year-old person on the advance team went to that site and said, ‘oh my goodness, here’s the John McCain, we all know how the president feels about the former senator, maybe that’s not the best backdrop, can somebody look into moving it?’ That’s not an unreasonable thing,” Mulvaney said.
The acting chief of staff said it would be “silly” if the staffer was fired over the request.
“The president’s feeling towards the former senator are well known,” Mulvaney said. “They are well known throughout the office, they are well known in the media.”