Fed up with television coverage of Sen. John McCain’s death and eager to continue promoting his agenda, President Donald Trump remained silent for most of Monday about the Vietnam War veteran being honored by the rest of Washington.
Late in the day, and after urging from senior aides, he relented, offering brief plaudits for the recently passed lawmaker in a statement after responding to questions earlier only with silence.
"Despite our differences on policy and politics, I respect Senator John McCain’s service to our country," Trump wrote in the four-paragraph statement, which dealt mainly in the logistical details he’d approved for the week-long remembrance ceremonies.
Later, while meeting with evangelical leaders in the State Dining Room, Trump said in prepared remarks, "Our hearts and prayers are going to the family of Senator John McCain. There’s going to be a lot of activity over the next number of days. And we very much appreciate everything that Senator McCain has done for our country."
It was a more robust effort at commemorating the late lawmaker than Trump offered on Sunday and for most of Monday. During a string of appearances before reporters, the President maintained his silence, choosing to ignore questions about the late Arizona Republican.
Trump was urged by senior level staffers, including chief of staff John Kelly, to deliver a more robust statement on McCain starting early Monday morning, but he resisted and maintained that he would not alter his planned schedule because of McCain’s death. Trump told some advisers he believed the television coverage of McCain’s death was over the top, according to one person familiar with internal deliberations.
As the day proceeded, aides continued to press him to at least address the matter of the White House flags. After facing criticism for raising the flags to full staff after lowering them on Saturday, he relented on that issue, and released the statement detailing the logistical items he’d approved for McCain’s remembrance ceremonies.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders was heavily involved in the discussions and helped develop the statement Trump released. Asked what had changed and why the proclamation was issued Monday, Sanders would only say it was the "President’s decision to do and the statement speaks for itself."
Trump also wrote in the statement that he asked Vice President Mike Pence to deliver remarks at a ceremony celebrating McCain’s life in the US Capitol on Friday.>