White House flags lowered to half-staff for Sen. McCain amid criticism

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 27: The American flag at the White House flies at full staff August 27, 2018 in Washington, DC. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a decorated American war hero, died August 25, 2018 at the age of 81, after a long battle with brain cancer. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Flags at the White House were at full-staff for several hours Monday, even as Senate leaders of both parties formally requested American flags at government buildings stay at half-staff to honor Sen. John McCain.

The flags at the White House had been lowered Saturday and Sunday before they were raised to full-staff Monday morning. The White House flags were lowered to half-staff late Monday afternoon after widespread criticism.

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 President Donald 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.

In Indiana, Gov. Eric Holcomb directed flags across the state to remain at half-staff from Monday through the day of McCain’s burial, Sunday, Sept. 2.

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.

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.

The president released the following statement:

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.

I have asked Vice President Mike Pence to offer an address at the ceremony honoring Senator McCain at the United States Capitol this Friday.

At the request of the McCain family, I have also authorized military transportation of Senator McCain’s remains from Arizona to Washington, D.C., military pallbearers and band support, and a horse and caisson transport during the service at the United States Naval Academy.

Finally, I have asked General John Kelly, Secretary James Mattis, and Ambassador John Bolton to represent my Administration at his services.