Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said on the Sunday TV talk shows that a junior staffer made the request to the military to hide the destroyer McCain from President Donald Trump's view and would not be fired for doing it.
"That's not an unreasonable thing to ask" that the president be spared having to see a warship with late Sen. John McCain's name on it, given the enmity between them, both personally and politically, Mulvaney said on NBC-TV's "Meet The Press" program.
"The president's feelings toward the former senator are well known," he said.
Consequently, it would be "silly" to fire anyone for a well-meaning attempt to avoid the possibility of riling the commander in chief on his visit to Japan last week, Mulvaney added.
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On "Meet The Press" and "Fox News Sunday," Mulvaney sought to explain what may have gone through the mind of a junior staffer after spotting the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer McCain near the amphibious assault ship Wasp, which Trump visited on his trip to Japan.
"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. Can somebody look into moving it?' That's not an unreasonable thing to ask," Mulvaney said on "Meet The Press."
The Navy on Saturday confirmed receiving a request to "minimize visibility" of the McCain during the president's visit. The ship was originally named for the senator's father and grandfather, both admirals. The senator's name was added upon his death last year.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters traveling with him in South Korea on Sunday that he did not expect to ask for an Inspector General's report on the incident, The Associated Press reported. He said he also is considering issuing guidance to the military to avoid similar incidents, according to the AP.
Shanahan said he had spoken to McCain's widow, Cindy, but did not characterize the conversation.
In remarks carried by C-Span, Trump told reporters at the White House last week that whoever asked the military to keep the McCain out of his sight was "well meaning."
"I don't know what happened. I was not involved. … I would not have done it," he said. "Somebody did it because they thought I didn't like him [McCain].
"To me, John McCain -- I was never a fan, but I would never do that," Trump said.
"They were well meaning, I will say," he said of whoever made the request. "I don't know anything about it."
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.