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White House, Pentagon Butt Heads After USS McCain Incident

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The Pentagon told the White House the military “will not be politicized” following a request to keep the USS John McCain out of sight during President Donald Trump’s Japan visit.

Acting Defense Chief Patrick Shanahan told his chief of staff on Friday to speak to the White House “and reaffirm his mandate that the department of defense will not be politicized,” Shanahan spokesman Lt. Col. Joseph Buccino told The Asssociated Press.

Shanahan’s comments come after the Navy confirmed it was asked to keep the warship “out of sight” during Trump’s visit to Japan, according to AP.

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“A request was made to the U.S. Navy to minimize the visibility of USS John S. McCain, however, all ships remained in their normal configuration during the President’s visit,” said Navy Chief of Information Rear Adm. Charlie Brown in a statement Saturday according to the Huffington Post.

Trump told reporters outside the White House Thursday he was unaware of the order but thought it was well-meaning according to HuffPo.

“I was very angry with John McCain because he killed health care,” Trump said. “I was not a big fan of John McCain in any way, shape or form. But I would never do a thing like that.

“Now, somebody did it because they thought I didn’t like him, OK? And they were well-meaning, I will say,” the president added. “I didn’t know anything about it. I would never have done that.”

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Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” the move was “not unreasonable,” according to the AP.

“An advance team is hundreds of people,” Mulvaney told host Chuck Todd.

“The fact that some 23- or 24-year-old person on the advance team went to that site and said, ‘Oh my goodness, there’s the John McCain. We all know how the president feels about the former senator. Maybe that’s not the best backdrop. Could somebody look into moving it?’ That’s not an unreasonable thing to ask.”

Shanahan said that the Pentagon’s internal watchdog will not be initiating an investigation into the matter as the order was not carried out, according to AP. However, the Pentagon plans to more clearly explain to the military how to avoid political situations, a defense official told AP.

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About Mary Margaret Olohan

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