USS John McCain Reportedly Blocked By a Barge, Partially Covered By Tarp To Keep It Hidden During Trump's Visit To Japan: WSJ

A warship named in honor of late Arizona Senator John McCain was ordered to be put "out of sight" by White House officials ahead of President Donald Trump's visit to Japan last week.

The orders came in an email dated May 15 that was viewed by the Wall Street Journal, who first reported the story.

According to the Journal, the email included orders for preparing the USS Wasp ahead of the president's visit and a third directive which read, "USS John McCain needs to be out of sight."

The Journal says Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan was aware of the order and approved it so that the warship did not impact Trump's visit to Japan. WSJ journalist Rebecca Ballhaus, who reported on the story, told CNN's Anderson Cooper that the newspaper is unaware of how much involvement Shanahan had in the measures taken to keep Trump from seeing the ship.

"I think it's fair to say that it was something that really stunned a lot of the officials who were on the receiving end of the directive," Ballhaus said. "We reviewed some emails that were exchanged between various Navy commanders and officials for the U.S. in the Pacific command and both sides really seemed taken aback by the request, even the person who was conveying the request from the White House military office."

Among the measures taken were a tarp that covered the ship's name and, as the president's visit approached, a barge was moved closer to the USS John McCain to make it less visible. Sailors on board the ship were instructed to remove any items that displayed its name and were also given the day off when the president visited, the Journal said.

However, a tweet from the Navy Chief of Information, an account that has not tweeted in since January 2018, disputed the Journal's report, saying, "The name of USS John S. McCain was not obscured during the POTUS visit to Yokosuka on Memorial Day. The Navy is proud of that ship, its crew, its namesake and its heritage."

The Twitter account is controlled by Rear Adm. Charlie Brown, the account's profile says.

Photos taken of the USS John McCain last week do show a tarp hung over the ship to obscure its name, and officials from the Pentagon and the White House confirmed the orders to The Washington Post.

Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a Navy spokesman, told the Post that the tarp seen in the photos was present on the ship Friday and removed Saturday, he also seemed to dispute that a barge was moved to block the warship during Trump's visit.

"All ships remained in normal configuration during the President's visit," Christensen said in an email to the newspaper.

Currently, the ship is not on active deployment as it is being repaired following a 2017 collision with an oil tanker. The incident killed 10 sailors.

McCain, who died in August 2018, has been a frequent target of the president both before and after his death, drawing ire from the late senator's family and other politicians.

Shortly after the Journal story was published, McCain's daughter, The View co-host Meghan McCain, responded to the story on Twitter, saying, "Trump is a child who will always be deeply threatened by the greatness of my dad's incredible life. There is a lot of criticism of how much I speak about my dad, but nine months since he passed, Trump won't let him [rest in peace]. So I have to stand up for him. It makes my grief unbearable."

Trump responded to the report with his own tweet, writing, "I was not informed about anything having to do with the Navy Ship USS John S. McCain during my recent visit to Japan. Nevertheless,@FLOTUS and I loved being with our great Military Men and Women - what a spectacular job they do!"

A White House official who spoke to the Post on the condition of anonymity confirmed that Trump was not involved in the request to keep the Navy destroyer out of view. The official said that the White House did not want the ship to appear in photographs and that keeping Trump from becoming upset during the trip was also a reason for the orders.

A Navy official told the Post that while officers initially followed the request, they stopped once it became apparent what was happening.

In March, Trump said the McCain family had never thanked him for giving the Arizona Republican the "funeral that he wanted" He also dismissed the senator during his 2016 presidential campaign, saying he "like(d) people who weren't captured."

McCain spent 5 and a half years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and refused offers to be released due to his family connections to the U.S. military. McCain's father and grandfather were both admirals and each namesakes for the warship.

McCain's name was formally added in July 2018, a month before the senator's death.

USS John McCain
In this file photo provided by the U.S. Navy, the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) is underway December 26, 2003 in the Pacific Ocean. According to reports on June 19, 2009 the USS John S. McCain is tracking the North Korean ship, Kang Nam off the coast of China. Petty Officer 3rd Class Todd Frantom/U.S. Navy via Getty Images

This story has been updated to include a tweet from the Navy Chief of Information.

USS John McCain Reportedly Blocked By a Barge, Partially Covered By Tarp To Keep It Hidden During Trump's Visit To Japan: WSJ | U.S.