WASHINGTON - PHOENIX (AP/KSAZ/WTTG) -- The White House issued two statements on Monday, and once again lowered the American flag to half-staff, after having raised it Monday morning, following the death of U.S. Senator John McCain.
The flag had been lowered to half-staff after the Senator's death on Saturday as well as Sunday but was raised again on Monday morning, following backlash from political officials and the public, and then from a group the president assuredly does not want to offend.
"On the behalf of The American Legion's two million wartime veterans, I strongly urge you to make an appropriate presidential proclamation noting Senator McCain's death and legacy of service to our nation, and that our nation's flag be half-staffed through his interment," said a statement directed to him from Denise Rohan, the organization's national commander.
U.S. Flag Code states that flags be lowered "on the day of death and the following day for a Member of Congress." It is not in code to be lowered until the day of internment unless proclaimed by the president,
According to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs protocol posted online, the department says: "The flag is to be flown at half-staff at all federal buildings, grounds and naval vessels in the Washington, D.C., area on the day and day after the death of a United States senator, representative, territorial delegate, or the resident commissioner from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. It should also be flown at half-staff on all federal facilities in the state, congressional district, territory, or commonwealth of these officials."
President Donald Trump issued two statements on Monday, including a presidential proclamation that flags be lowered to half-staff, "as a mark of respect for the memory and longstanding service". Earlier in the day, a stone-faced Trump sat mute as reporters at several photo sessions invited him to comment on McCain. As he was peppered with questions about McCain's legacy, the usually talkative president made no response.
In Phoenix, the act of raising the flag to full staff did not go down well at the American Legion.
"That was worrisome to me. I think that is politicizing it and that is totally inappropriate and out of place at this occasion," said Air Force veteran Allen Tury.
According to a report filed by the Associated Press, while much of the nation remembered McCain's record as a war hero, longtime senator and presidential nominee over the weekend, Trump had nursed his grievances. McCain had been an infuriating foil in a long-running feud over style and policy that did not end with the senator's illness and death.
Back in 2015, McCain had gotten under then-candidate Trump's skin by saying he had "fired up the crazies" at a rally in Phoenix. Trump later told a crowd in Iowa that McCain was only a war hero "because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured."
McCain said Trump owed veterans an apology for that, but he continued to back the celebrity businessman as the Republican nominee. He later withdrew his support after the release of the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape in which Trump bragged about groping women.
After Trump took office, McCain established himself as a leading critic, opposing Trump's immigration-limiting order, warning him against coziness with Moscow and lecturing him on the illegality of torture.
Friction increased earlier this year after word surfaced that a West Wing aide had been dismissive of McCain during a closed-door meeting. The aide told colleagues they should disregard McCain's opposition to Trump's CIA nominee because "he's dying anyway."