The White House has lowered the flag atop the presidential residence to half staff following an outcry of public pressure after the flag was raised to full mast early Monday morning. The change puts the White House back in line with most flags in the capital today, still in mourning over the death of Senator John McCain on Sunday.
It’s unclear exactly when the flag was lowered, but live video footage from MSNBC captured the moment around 3:45 p.m. eastern and prompted a surprised reaction from anchor Ali Velshi who was unsure whether to believe his own eyes.
“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 in a statement to the media — the first official comment from the White House commenting on his death.
“I have asked Vice President Mike Pence to offer an address at the ceremony honoring Senator McCain at the United States Capitol this Friday,” he added. “At the request of the McCain family, I have also authorized military transportation of Senator McCain’s remains from Arizona to Washington, D.C., military pallbearers and band support, and a horse and caisson transport during the service at the United States Naval Academy.”
Trump also announced that General John Kelly, Secretary James Mattis, and Ambassador John Bolton would represent him at McCain’s funeral, an event the late senator expressly wish Trump not attend.
In his finals years, McCain became one of President Trump’s fiercest GOP critics. The tit-for-tat between them was sharply personal. At one moment on the campaign trail in 2015, Trump disparaged McCain’s military service in Vietnam saying he was only a “war hero” “because he was captured” and added for good measure that he preferred people “who weren’t captured.”
McCain’s last major vote on the Senate floor was a “no” on the longtime Republican dream of replacing the Affordable Care Act, the signature achievement of the Obama administration. His last significant public statement on policy was a message condemning Trump for his joint press conference in Helsinki with Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin.
Trump routinely mocked McCain’s “no” vote and nettlesome public presence throughout the Senator’s battle with brain cancer.
After McCain’s death, Trump initially vetoed a White House statement, according to the Washington Post and only chose to honor the suffering of the “McCain family” in a tweet. A full week of memorial services are scheduled for the late senator and flags are expected to be kept at half staff in the capital all week.
My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 26, 2018