Trump, under pressure to honor McCain, orders flags to half-staff

The American flag files at half-staff at the White House, Monday afternoon, Aug. 27, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Updated 28 August 2018
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Trump, under pressure to honor McCain, orders flags to half-staff

  • Trump’s initial silence about McCain underscored the isolation of the US leader and fueled criticism that he is incapable of bringing a divided nation together
  • McCain, who served as a senator from Arizona for more than 30 years, clashed repeatedly with Trump even though they were both Republicans
WASHINGTON: Donald Trump on Monday bowed to pressure to honor the late John McCain, ordering the lowering of flags across the country to half-staff, as the late senator fired a parting shot at the president in a farewell message to the nation.
Trump’s about-face came after he found himself mired in controversy over his rather conspicuous failure to pay tribute to McCain, who died Saturday at 81 after a year-long battle with brain cancer.
When veterans’ groups launched appeals for a more fitting salute to McCain, a navy veteran who was imprisoned for more than five years in Vietnam, the Republican leader — who had no love lost for the Arizona senator — blinked.
“Despite our differences on policy and politics, I respect Senator John McCain’s service to our country,” Trump said in a statement as he ordered the flag atop the White House and elsewhere to fly at half-staff until McCain’s burial on Sunday.
The White House flag was lowered after McCain’s death on Saturday — but it was once again at the top of the flagpole on Monday morning.
Trump’s initial silence about McCain underscored the isolation of the US leader and fueled criticism that he is incapable of bringing a divided nation together even as it mourns a man widely seen as an American hero and a political icon.
In Phoenix, where a week of tributes to McCain was soon to get underway, Rick Davis, the two-time presidential candidate’s former campaign manager, confirmed that Trump would not be attending the funeral.
The president himself said Vice President Mike Pence would speak at a ceremony honoring McCain at the US Capitol on Friday.
White House chief of staff John Kelly, Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Adviser John Bolton would represent the administration at his services, he added.
In Phoenix, Davis read a posthumous statement from McCain that did not spare Trump.
“We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe,” McCain said.
“We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been,” he said — -- an apparent reference to Trump’s plans for a border wall.
“I lived and died a proud American. We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil,” McCain continued.
“Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here,” he said, adding that the country “will get through these challenging times.”
McCain, who served as a senator from Arizona for more than 30 years, clashed repeatedly with Trump even though they were both Republicans, and the president initially paid scant tribute to the senator after his death.
The Washington Post reported that White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, Chief of Staff Kelly and other senior staff had urged a statement be released referring to McCain as a “hero” — but Trump opted to tweet instead.
“My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain,” Trump tweeted. “Our hearts and prayers are with you!“
That had been the extent of Trump’s remarks on McCain’s passing until the White House statement on Monday.
McCain’s remains will lie in state at Arizona’s capitol on Wednesday, before a public viewing Friday in the rotunda of the US Capitol — an honor reserved for the likes of John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and civil rights champion Rosa Parks.
The two men who defeated McCain in his White House campaigns, Republican George W. Bush in 2000 and Democrat Barack Obama in 2008, are expected to deliver eulogies at a Saturday service at the National Cathedral in Washington.
McCain will be buried Sunday at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in a private funeral service.
In Washington, McCain’s death has been a rare occasion for bipartisan praise for his lifetime in public service.
Tributes have poured in from every living former president, honoring the former Navy aviator for his courage, integrity and decency.
On Capitol Hill, his desk on the Senate floor was draped with a black cloth, and adorned with a bowl of white roses.
The enmity between Trump and McCain dates from the day the real estate tycoon announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination with an attack on Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump said of McCain: “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”
In the years since, McCain was Trump’s loudest Republican critic, especially as the president disrupted America’s long-time alliances.
After Trump met in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin, McCain called it “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”


'No collusion, no obstruction' Trump declares victory as Mueller report published

Updated 16 min 34 sec ago
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'No collusion, no obstruction' Trump declares victory as Mueller report published

  • Justice Department released the full — though redacted — report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Russian medaling in US election
  • Attorney General Bill Barr said in a summary of the report that there was no collusion between Trump and Russians

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump, backed by his attorney general, declared himself fully vindicated Thursday in the investigation into Russian election meddling and alleged collusion with his campaign — before the long-awaited full probe report was made public.
“Game Over,” Trump tweeted, using a “Game of Thrones” style montage that pictured him standing in dramatic fog.


Just about an hour later, the Justice Department released the full — though redacted — report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which nevertheless raised questions about Trump’s actions, saying investigators were “unable” to clear him of obstruction.
Weeks ago, Attorney General Bill Barr said in a summary of the report that there was no collusion between Trump and Russians seeking to influence the 2016 presidential election in his favor.
In a nationally broadcast news conference held right before the report’s release, Barr repeatedly drove that point home.
“We now know that the Russian operatives who perpetrated these schemes did not have the cooperation of President Trump or the Trump campaign,” Barr told reporters, in a statement that effectively sought to spin the report before it was released.
“The special counsel found no collusion by any Americans,” Barr said.
“That is the bottom line.”
The extreme secrecy surrounding Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation ended abruptly at about 11a.m. in Washington when the 400-odd pages of the report were made public to Congress, the media and the public.
The report’s publication marks a new peak in a political storm raging over Washington throughout the first half of Trump’s first term in office.
While leftist opponents long hoped that Mueller would either charge Trump with crimes or provide evidence for impeachment, the outcome so far has favored the divisive, right-wing Republican president.
“NO COLLUSION. NO OBSTRUCTION,” a triumphant Trump wrote in his “Game of Thrones” pastiche tweet.
Later, he said at the start of a speech: “I’m having a good day.”
Barr emphatically sought to clear Trump of allegations that his actions — including his public attacks on Mueller and firing of then FBI chief James Comey — were not legally actionable.
The Trump-appointed attorney general had already asserted this in his summary of Mueller’s report a month ago, despite noting that Mueller himself had been unable to rule clearly on the issue.
At his news conference, Barr said he was standing by his own ruling, noting that Trump had no intention to obstruct and had merely been “frustrated and angered.”
“The White House fully cooperated with the special counsel’s investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims,” he said.
“And at the same time, the president took no act that in fact deprived the special counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation.”
But the report said: “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.
“Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.”
Publication of the report — minus parts blacked out for legal or security reasons — will in theory give everyone a chance to get the full picture on a scandal that has been tangled in conspiracy theories.
But given the volcanic political temperature in Washington and the left-right chasm through the rest of the country ahead of Trump’s 2020 re-election bid, the debate over what really happened is likely to rage on.
At a minimum, the details — based on exhaustive interviews by Mueller’s prosecutors with Trump insiders — could paint an unflattering picture of the president and his links to Russia, including a previously undeclared real estate project in Moscow.
The deeper analysis of whether he committed obstruction of justice could also provide headaches for the White House.
Trump himself is supremely confident that his opponents have failed in what he claims was high-level “treason” to destroy his presidency.
“The Greatest Political Hoax of all time! Crimes were committed by Crooked, Dirty Cops and DNC/The Democrats,” the president said before Barr took the podium, reprising many of his favorite slogans about his opponents.
Claiming that Barr has been working to hamper and whitewash the Russia report, Democrats will push for still more details and testimony in the near future — including from Mueller himself.
“It is clear Congress and the American people must hear from Special Counsel Robert Mueller in person to better understand his findings,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler tweeted.
Nadler set a deadline of May 23 for Mueller to come to Capitol Hill.