President Donald Trump struck a petulant pose after a 20-minute Oval Office news conference touting a new trade agreement with Mexico, crossing his arms and refusing to acknowledge questions about the late Sen. John McCain.
The Oval Office event was televised but featured Mexican president Enrique Nieto patched in by telephone. After the pair concluded the plug for their new alliance, reporters shouted questions at Trump about McCain. (See full video below, with shouts at the 19:35 mark.) Fifteen silent seconds later, Trump rose from his seat, ending the news conference.
Reporters are likely to keep following up on Trump’s less-than-classy response to McCain’s death on Sunday at age 81. According to multiple media reports, he nixed a statement drafted by administration staffers that would have lauded McCain’s stellar record of military service. Instead, Trump took to his preferred medium of Twitter to send wan condolences to the family of McCain. Notably, he offered no sentiments at all about the main himself — something even McCain’s frequent political foe and recent Trump soldier Rudy Giuliani managed to do in his own tweet.
McCain waged numerous battles with Trump, issuing his landmark thumbs-down vote on Obamacare repeal and never embracing Trump or his policies as so many traditional Republicans have over the past two years. The bad blood increased after Trump mocked McCain on the campaign trail, declaring that he prefers war heroes who “didn’t get captured.” (McCain spent more than five years in a Viet Cong prison camp after his Navy fighter jet was shot down during the Vietnam War.)
Extending the remarkable snub from the White House, the building’s flag is no longer flying at half-staff despite a week of memorial remembrances planned and a burial planned in the U.S. Navy cemetery. By custom, flags remain lowered until the deceased is buried, which in McCain’s case will not be until Sunday.
McCain’s funeral itself has become a flashpoint, with the Arizona senator leaving instructions that presidents Bush and Obama be invited to speak at his memorial, but not Trump. Media reports, some of which included confirmation by multiple White House sources, said Trump is banned from attending the service. Presidential spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders called McCain “an American hero” but declined to address the reported ban or say if Trump planned any further remembrances.
Trump, as is his wont, focused his televised remarks on the branding of NAFTA, noting that the new deal will be known as the United States-Mexico Trade Agreement. The old name “has a negative connotation because the United States was hurt really really badly by NAFTA,” he said. The other reason for the re-brand, of course, is that NAFTA participant Canada is not on board with the new deal.
Here’s the video of the news conference: