WASHINGTON, D.C. — Donald Trump’s White House asked the U.S. navy to hide a warship named after John McCain, decorated war hero and arch critic of the former president, during his 2019 state visit to Japan.
Trump denounced reports of the move to hide the ship as “fake news” at the time. But newly released emails confirm that an official at U.S. Indo-Pacific Command demanded the navy keep the USS John S McCain “out of sight” ahead of Trump’s trip in May of that year.
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The exchanges between U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and the navy were obtained by a freedom of information request from Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal.
One email included a list of action points. Number three read: “USS John McCain needs to be out of sight.”
A later message asked for acknowledgment that the ship would be hidden, saying: “Please confirm #3 will be satisfied.”
One recipient replied: “This just makes me sad …” while another said: “I could see that becoming a Tweet …”
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The emails appear to reflect Trump’s lingering sensitivity over his long-running feud with fellow Republican McCain.
The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer was initially named after the father and grandfather of the late Arizona senator, who were both admirals.
McCain’s name was added as a namesake for the ship shortly before his death in 2018. The late senator, a former presidential nominee, became a frequent target of Trump’s ire after distancing himself from the party’s leader in 2016.
On one occasion, Trump said McCain, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, was “not a war hero.”
Before his 2019 trip to Japan, Trump complained that he had not been thanked for giving McCain “the kind of funeral that he wanted.”
“I didn’t get a thank you. That’s OK,” he said, while belittling McCain’s record. Trump has also regularly criticized the late senator for turning over the “Steele dossier,” a report by former British spy Christopher Steele that purported to detail connections between Trump and Russian intelligence, to the FBI.
The previously undisclosed email exchange adds new details to The Wall Street Journal’s earlier reporting in May 2019 on the controversy and attempts to keep the USS McCain out of sight.
The request to hide the vessel was ultimately rejected but The Journal published a photo of a tarp obscuring the warship’s name.
In separate revelations this week about confidential communications at the Trump White House, 27 letters exchanged between Trump and Kim Jong-un from 2018 to 2019 were released by the Korean-American club, an organization of current and former South Korean media.
The letters showed efforts by Kim to try to sideline then South Korean president Moon Jae-in while cosying up to Trump with the words “I am ready to work with your excellency with all my heart and devotion.”
Trump has previously spoken about the “love letters” he received from Kim, saying that “he wrote me beautiful letters and we fell in love.”