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Trump's ex-chief of staff told him that 'the public will come to your grave and piss on it' if he didn't lower the flag in honor of McCain's death: book

Business Insider logo Business Insider 9/17/2022 ydzhanova@businessinsider.com (Yelena Dzhanova)
The late Sen. John McCain. Drew Angerer/Getty Images © Drew Angerer/Getty Images The late Sen. John McCain. Drew Angerer/Getty Images
  • John Kelly gave Trump a stark warning when he refused to lower flags in honor of John McCain's death.
  • Kelly told Trump that he should reconsider because people will "piss" on his grave, according to an upcoming book.
  • Trump kept flags raised at full staff until pressure from parties caused him to cave.

John Kelly, former White House chief of staff, told former President Donald Trump that the public will be angry with him if he didn't honor the late John McCain's death by ordering that flags be lowered to half-mast.

"If you don't support John McCain's funeral, when you die, the public will come to your grave and piss on it," Kelly told Trump, according to an upcoming book from journalists Susan Glasser and Peter Baker. 

When prominent US officials and figures die, it's custom for presidents to release a proclamation that all flags be lowered to half-staff until the burial. When McCain died in 2018 after a brain cancer diagnosis, Trump expressed his sympathies in a tweet but kept flags raised to full-staff, Insider's Pat Ralph reported.

 

Axios reported that Kelly was furious about the move.

Trump has faced widespread criticism for feuding with McCain. While campaigning for the 2016 presidential election, for example, took jabs at McCain's military service, calling him a "dummy" and a loser

"He's not a war hero," Trump said mockingly. "He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured."

And in 2018, Trump signed a national defense bill that had been named after McCain, but Trump didn't mention his name once. McCain was one of Trump's most vocal critics on issues of national defense.

Upon McCain's death, Trump had reportedly rejected a statement written by his aides that praised McCain, as tributes from politicians, military personnel, and journalists came pouring in.

The American Legion, a nonprofit organization that serves US veterans, criticized Trump for raising the flag, urging him 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 interment."

Calls to lower the flag also came from both parties, including leaders like Sens. Mitch McConnell, a Republican, and Chuck Schumer, a Democrat.

The pressure eventually forced Trump to lower the flag to half-staff.

"Despite our differences on policy and politics, I respect Senator John McCain's service to our country and, in his honor, have signed a proclamation to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff until the day of his interment," Trump said in a statement.

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