White House flag back at half-staff for Sen. John McCain after widespread criticism

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Monday, August 27, 2018
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White House returns flag to half-staff after criticism for raising it during mourning for Sen. John McCain

WASHINGTON -- Flags at the White House were back at half-staff Monday after objections mounted and Senate leaders of both parties formally requested that American flags at government buildings stay that way to honor Sen. John McCain.

The flags were raised to full staff earlier, and President Donald Trump passed up several chances to comment on McCain, with whom he had frequently traded criticism.

The flags at the White House had been lowered a day earlier but were back up on Monday, in a break with tradition. That brought complaints from both right and left, including the America Legion.

"On the behalf of The American Legion's two million wartime veterans, I strongly urge you to make an appropriate presidential proclamation noting Senator McCain's death and legacy of service to our nation, and that our nation's flag be half-staffed through his internment," said a statement to Trump from Denise Rohan, the organization's national commander.

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Aides to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic Leader Charles Schumer requested that the Department of Defense keep flags at government buildings lowered until the sunset after McCain is buried in Annapolis, Maryland, next Sunday.

That's standard procedure when a member of the Senate passes away. McCain served in the chamber for six terms, most recently as chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

McCain was a frequent critic of Trump on everything from his leadership style to his Russia policy. Trump questioned the decorated Navy pilot's Vietnam heroism and chafed at McCain's vote to kill the president's "Obamacare" repeal.

McCain died on Saturday at 81 after a 13-month struggle with brain cancer. Trump tweeted condolences to McCain's family but made no reference to the Arizona senator.

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Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands with Sen. John McCain after administering the Senate oath of office during a mock swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
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U.S. Flag Code states that flags be lowered "on the day of death and the following day for a Member of Congress."

After Democratic Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts died in 2009, President Barack Obama ordered flags at the White House flown at half-staff for five days.

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