Trump, under pressure to honour McCain, orders flags to half-staff
Washington: Donald Trump bowed to pressure to honour the late John McCain, ordering the lowering of flags across the country to half-staff, as the late senator fired a parting shot at the president in a farewell message to the nation.
Trump’s about-face came after he found himself mired in controversy over his rather conspicuous failure to pay tribute to McCain, who died Saturday at 81 after a year-long battle with brain cancer.
When veterans’ groups launched appeals for a more fitting salute to McCain, a Navy veteran who was imprisoned for more than five years in Vietnam, the Republican leader — who had no love lost for the Arizona senator — blinked.
“Despite our differences on policy and politics, I respect Senator John McCain’s service to our country,” Trump said in a statement as he ordered the flag atop the White House and elsewhere to fly at half-staff until McCain’s burial on Sunday.
The White House flag was lowered after McCain’s death on Saturday — but it was once again at the top of the flagpole on Monday morning.
Trump’s initial silence about McCain underscored the isolation of the US leader and fuelled criticism that he is incapable of bringing a divided nation together even as it mourns a man widely seen as an American hero and a political icon.
In Phoenix, where a week of tributes to McCain was soon to get underway, Rick Davis, the two-time presidential candidate’s former campaign manager, confirmed that Trump would not be attending the funeral.
The President himself said Vice President Mike Pence would speak at a ceremony honouring McCain at the US Capitol on Friday.
White House chief of staff John Kelly, Defence Secretary James Mattis and National Security Advisor John Bolton would represent the administration at his services, he added.