Art of the Snub: So Far, Trump Opts Against Lowering Flags for McCain This Week

President ordered flags at half-staff before

A slightly frayed flag flies at the Capitol in Washington fly at half staff on Sunday morning, after Sen. John McCain’s death. So far, President Donald Trump has opted against ordering U.S. flags to be lowered in McCain’s honor. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump is continuing his feud with John McCain even after the senator’s death, so far opting against ordering U.S. flags to be lowered in honor of the longtime lawmaker. He often has acted quickly to honor other Americans.

Flags at the White House and even the Navy Memorial were at full staff on Monday. The flag  at the White House had been lowered to half-staff over the weekend. Thus far, Trump has not issued a proclamation ordering that U.S. flags be lowered beyond that. 

The president reportedly rejected a statement drafted by senior White House aides Saturday night after McCain passed away that honored his decades of service, including his time as a tortured prisoner during the Vietnam War. Instead, he issued a brief tweet offering condolences for the McCain family — but offered no words about McCain’s Navy or congressional careers.

[Read More About John McCain]

Senate Minority Leader Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell want flags to be lowered to honor McCain, according to Matt House, Schumer’s spokesman.

Trump and McCain long had a difficult relationship, with the late senator recently slamming the president’s stance toward Russia and Trump repeatedly in recent months derisively referring to McCain without naming him for his July 2017 vote against a GOP bill that would have scrapped the 2010 health law.

Just over 36 hours after McCain’s family announced his death after a year-long fight with brain cancer, there has been no statement honoring his service from the White House or Trump. There also has been no proclamation ordering American flags at federal buildings lowered to half staff in his honor.

[McCain Remembered as He Wished: One Who Served Honorably]

Trump has issued the order a number of times since taking office, and those instances offer a window into his thinking. And one case suggests the president still might sign such an order.

Billy Graham

The president’s order for flags to be lowered following the Baptist minister — who counseled several U.S. presidents and many lawmakers — came the same day Graham died. A proclamation was issued on Feb. 21 on official White House letterhead called the order “a mark of respect for the memory of Reverend Billy Graham.” The order ended up spanning until Graham was buried on March 2.

Graham was popular with Trump’s white, conservative base. The president’s own words show how he often views many events through the lens of his own political benefit.

Las Vegas shooting

He often has waited until the day after a national figure’s death or a tragedy to give the flags order. That was the case when a gunman opened fire on a country music festival on Oct. 1, 2017, killing 58 people. Trump ordered Old Glory lowered the next day.

“Our Nation is heartbroken. We mourn with all whose loved ones were murdered and injured in last night's horrible tragedy in Las Vegas, Nevada. As we grieve, we pray that God may provide comfort and relief to all those suffering,” the Oct. 2 official proclamation stated, calling the order “a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless act of violence.” That order spanned five days.

Texas and Florida shootings

Following mass murders at a Texas church and Florida high school, the president ordered flags down the next day, marking something of a pattern.

[Schedule Announced for Events Remembering John McCain]

“Our Nation grieves with those who have lost loved ones in the shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida,” stated a White House-issued proclamation dated Feb. 15. The order was described by the White House as “a mark of solemn respect for the victims of the terrible act of violence,” and spanned through sunset on Feb. 19.

Capital Gazette shootingTrump has bowed to public pressure to give the flags order before. A gunman with a grudge against the Annapolis newspaper shot dead five employees at its office in the Maryland capital on June 28. The president — who considers most journalists collectively an “enemy of the people” — resisted having all U.S. flags lowered to honor to dead, but ultimately gave in five days later.

“Our Nation shares the sorrow of those affected by the shooting,” a July 3 proclamation read, adding “Americans across the country are united in calling upon God to be with the victims and to bring aid and comfort to their families and friends.” The order was described by the White House as “ a mark of solemn respect for the victims of the terrible act of violence” - but it lasted only until sunset the same day.

Federal code states that flags should be lowered “on the day of death and the following day” for a member of Congress. But the president has the power to issue a proclamation ordering that flags be lowered and for how long. 

Watch: A Life in the Public Eye: A Look Back at McCain’s Congressional Career

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