Trump denies asking USS McCain to be moved 'out of sight' but says whoever did was 'well meaning'

Meghan McCain, the senator's eldest daughter, said the president wouldn't let her father rest in peace.

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By Alex Johnson and Courtney Kube

President Donald Trump on Thursday morning again denied that he had anything to with a reported request to move the USS John S. McCain "out of sight" during his recent state visit to Japan, but he said whoever made the request was "well meaning."

"I don't know what happened. I wasn't involved. I would not have done that," Trump told reporters outside the White House.

Trump added that he was "very angry" with the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., because of his vote to narrowly defeat a partial repeal of the Affordable Care Act in 2017 and that he wasn't a fan of McCain's in "any way, shape or form," in part because of his support for the invasion of Iraq. But he said that didn't mean he would ever ask the Navy to move a ship.

"Now, somebody did it because they thought I didn't like him, OK, and they were well meaning, I will say," Trump added. "I didn't know anything about that. I would never have done that."

Trump has continued to criticize McCain, a longtime political antagonist, even after the Republican senator died more than nine months ago.

Trump's denial came after The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that it had reviewed an email to Navy and Air Force officials dated May 15 that included the direction "USS John McCain needs to be out of sight." NBC News has not obtained the email.

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Trump said Wednesday night on Twitter: "I was not informed about anything having to do with the Navy Ship USS John S. McCain during my recent visit to Japan."

The Defense Department also disputed parts of the Journal's account.

Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a spokesman for U.S. Pacific Fleet, said "all ships remained in normal configuration during POTUS' visit," using a common acronym for "president of the United States."

Joe Buccino, a spokesman for Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan, told NBC News that Shanahan wasn't aware of the directive, "nor was he aware of the concern precipitating the directive."

Shanahan addressed The Journal's report Thursday while visiting Jakarta, Indonesia. "What I read this morning was the first I had heard about it," he said.

Sen. John McCain speaks at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania in 2008.Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty Images file

Asked whether he would start an investigation, Shanahan replied: "I need to find out a little bit more. I've just had the first glimpse of it this morning."

McCain's eldest daughter, Meghan McCain, co-host of the television show "The View," tweeted that Trump was "a child who will always be deeply threatened by the greatness of my dads incredible life."

"Trump won't let him RIP. So I have to stand up for him," she continued. "It makes my grief unbearable."

On her television show Thursday, McCain elaborated on how Trump's criticisms were affecting her grieving process.

"There's a lot of criticism towards me in the media across the board of how often I speak of my father, how I grieve, how I do it publicly," she said. "But it's impossible to go through the grief process when my father, who's been dead 10 months, is constantly in the news cycle because the president is so obsessed with the fact that he's never going to be a great man like he was."

McCain also said she thought Trump's attacks were having a negative impact on military culture.

"I will say the president's actions have consequences, and when you repeatedly are attacking my father and war heroes, it creates a culture in the military where people are clearly fearful to show my father's name in one way or another," she said. "And that, I think, is what has started this chain of events and actions."

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a Democratic presidential candidate and Afghanistan war veteran, also responded on Twitter, writing: "This is not a show. Our military is not a prop. Ships and sailors are not to be toyed with for the benefit of a fragile president's ego."