The Slatest

Mulvaney: Request to Hide McCain Ship During Trump Visit Was “Not an Unreasonable” Ask

White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney listens while US President Donald Trump speaks to the press before a meeting with Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban in the Oval Office of the White House on May 13, 2019, in Washington, D.C.
White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney listens while President Donald Trump speaks to the press in the Oval Office of the White House on May 13. Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney defended the request that came from the White House to hide the USS John S. McCain during President Donald Trump’s visit to Japan. It was not “an unreasonable thing to ask,” Mulvaney said. The acting chief of staff defended the request on both NBC’s Meet the Press and Fox News Sunday and received pushback from the hosts. Yet with that message Mulvaney was merely echoing Trump, who said he didn’t know anything about the request but assured it came from a “well-meaning” person in his staff.

“The fact that some 23 or 24-year-old person on the advance team went to that sight and said ‘Oh my goodness, there’s the John McCain’ we all know how the president feels about the former senator, maybe that’s not the best backdrop, can somebody look into moving it,” Mulvaney said. “That’s not an unreasonable thing to ask.” NBC’s Chuck Todd seemingly couldn’t believe what he was hearing; “Seriously?” Mulvaney stuck to his talking point and said it was “silly” to think someone will get fired over the issue. “If you’re going to a staff meeting and say, ‘Look, Chuck is fighting with so-and-so. Let’s not sit them together today at the meeting,’ is that a fireable offence at NBC?” Mulvaney asked. “Goodness gracious. What kind of place are you folks running over here?”

On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace first said he only had 30 seconds to discuss the issue but then went on for longer. Wallace also asked whether someone at the White House would be “disciplined” over the issue. “For what?” Mulvaney asked. “For asking an innocuous question about that? No, does someone get disciplined at Fox News for saying that so and so doesn’t want to sit next to so and so at a meeting? No, again, this is a minor issue that we think the media is trying to make it to a larger matter.” Mulvaney said that it’s key to keep in mind that “nothing happened because of it.”

Mulvaney’s defense of the controversial request came shortly after the Pentagon reportedly sent a message to the White House that the military should not be politicized. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan “directed his chief of staff to speak with the White House military office and reaffirm his mandate that the Department of Defense will not be politicized,” Lt. Col. Joe Buccino, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement. “The chief of staff reported that he did reinforce this message.” Despite this directive though Shanahan said Sunday that he did not see a need for an official investigation into the request to hide the USS John S. McCain. He will not ask the inspector general to investigate “because there was nothing really carried out,” Shanahan told reporters.