President Donald Trump denied Wednesday night that he knew anything about a reported White House request that the military move the USS John S. McCain "out of sight" during his recent state visit to Japan.
The Wall Street Journal reported that it reviewed an email to Navy and Air Force officials dated May 15 that included the direction "USS John McCain needs to be out of sight."
The Journal said that in response to the request, the Navy covered the ship — which has been under repair since it suffered a major collision in August 2017 — with a tarpaulin and that sailors who may have been required to wear ball caps with the ship's name on it were given the day off.
And it said Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan was aware of the White House's concern about Trump's possible reaction to seeing the McCain "and approved measures to ensure it didn't interfere with the president's visit."
Trump said early Wednesday evening on Twitter: "I was not informed about anything having to do with the Navy Ship USS John S. McCain during my recent visit to Japan."
Defense Department officials also disputed the Journal account. Joe Buccino, a spokesman for Shanahan, told NBC News that Shanahan was aware of neither the directive nor any concerns that may have been behind it.
Another defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told NBC News that the tarpaulin was used as part of hull preservation work on the McCain, which suffered significant damage in a collision in August 2017. It was removed on Saturday, the day Trump arrived in Tokyo, the official said.
The official said it wasn't just sailors aboard the McCain who were given time off during the president's visit — along with sailors on the McCain, those aboard another destroyer, the USS Stethem, were also given leave, both crews on 96-hour passes, partly for security.
No sailors were authorized to wear ball caps at all that day, the official said.
Trump has continued to criticize McCain, R-Ariz., a longtime political antagonist, even after the senator died more than nine months ago.
McCain's eldest daughter, Meghan McCain, co-host of the television show "The View," tweeted that Trump was "a child who will always be deeply threatened by the greatness of my dads incredible life."
"Trump won't let him RIP. So I have to stand up for him," she continued. "It makes my grief unbearable."