The White House tried to rescind an order to lower flags to half-staff after John McCain died, a former official says.

President Trump wasn't simply furious that the flags on federal buildings had been lowered to half-staff to honor the late Senator John McCain in August 2018: He actually tried to have them raised, again, on all buildings across the country, according to a former senior official at the Department of Homeland Security.

In an interview on Friday, the ex-official, Miles Taylor, who served in D.H.S. from 2017 to 2019, said he was traveling in Australia to meet with security partners to discuss sensitive counterterrorism issues, when he and others on the trip, including the former D.H.S. Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Chad Wolf, a former senior official who is now the acting secretary, got news of Mr. McCain's death.

It was around 3 a.m. Australia time when Mr. Taylor started getting phone calls from the White House and from a military aide that eventually woke him up, he said. "I get someone from the White House, a senior person there, who calls and says, 'What is going on with the flags. The president is upset, this has gone out too soon and he doesn't want it to happen.'"

Mr. Taylor said he was uncertain of the procedure for lowering flags to half-staff, and spotty Wi-Fi on the trip across the globe had left him somewhat out of the loop on how the president was reacting to Mr. McCain's death (the White House had lowered its own flag on the presidential complex, only to raise it again, in what was seen at the time as a perplexing break from protocol).

After some frantic middle-of-the-night research and calls, he said, he had a clearer picture. "D.H.S. houses the Federal Protective Service, which guards all federal buildings but also has responsibility to lower the flags in cases of national mourning," he said. After the White House had initially lowered its flag to half-staff, D.H.S. had sent a notice for all federal buildings to follow suit.

"I was then asked, 'Would you guys be able to rescind the directive?'" Mr. Taylor said. He had not discussed the push from the White House with Ms. Nielsen, who was still asleep down the hallway. But he told the senior White House official that "we would need a compelling reason for the White House to order us to do that."

On a follow-up call, the official relented and said that aides back at home were hoping to push the president simply to issue a proclamation and keep the flags lowered.

"They never ended up giving us that order, but the intimation I got was, 'This shouldn't have happened,'" Mr. Taylor said. It was that the president "won't want them down, and he's angry, and look into what you would be able to do with it." He said that he found the episode "pretty astounding and disgusting."

Mr. Trump has angrily denied a new report in The Atlantic that said that he was furious when he saw the flags lowered to half-staff. "What the fuck are we doing that for? Guy was a fucking loser," the president told aides, according to the article.

Speaking with reporters on Thursday night, Mr. Trump insisted that he respected Mr. McCain even though they disagreed.

"I was never a fan. I will admit that openly," Mr. Trump said. But "we lowered the flags. I had to approve that, nobody else, I had to approve it."

Mr. Taylor recently endorsed Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee, in a video testimonial released by the group "Republican Voters Against Trump."

— Annie Karni, New York Times, Sept 4, 2020


September 4, 2020

Voices4America Post Script. John McCain was a prisoner of war for 7 yrs, receiving wounds that left him with lifelong physical disabilities. An American hero-Trump called him a loser. We all heard. Now we know Trump scorns even the idea of service/sacrifice. Sick creep doesn't get it! #BidenHarris2020

In case you don't remember Trump's insults at John McCain, CNN's Jim Sciutto pointed them out on Twitter.

Senator McCain’s daughter Meghan had this to say.

Joe Biden weighed in on this too.

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