President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Monday, after...

President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Monday, after speaking with President Enrique Pena Nieto on the phone about a trade agreement between the United States and Mexico. Credit: AP/Evan Vucci

Not the military parade Trump wanted

Donald Trump can get pretty possessive about the flag. A dozen years ago, he set off a legal battle with the town of Palm Beach by erecting an oversized flagpole with an outsized flag on the front lawn of Mar-a-Lago. He demands punishment for any NFL player who doesn't stand when "The Star-Spangled Banner" is played.

Trump wasn't moved at first by the explosive outcry after the flag atop the White House — his house, for now  — was raised to full staff Monday morning instead of remaining at half-staff until next weekend's conclusion of services for the late Sen. John McCain. But as the hours passed, the president could no longer ignore it. Trump, who has often boasted "the veterans love me," heard from the American Legion, AMVETS and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, among others demanding respect for a war hero.

"On the behalf of The American Legion's two million wartime veterans, I strongly urge you 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 ," said Denise Rohan, the organization's national commander.

"It’s outrageous that the White House would mark American hero John McCain’s death with a two-sentence tweet, making no mention of his heroic and inspiring life,” Joe Chenelly, AMVETS national executive director, said in a statement. Chenelly called it "blatant disrespect for Senator McCain’s many decades of service and sacrifice to our country as well as the service of all his fellow veterans."

Earlier in the day, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued a bipartisan call for flags at federal facilities to remain at half-staff through sunset on Sunday. Yet Trump sat silent and glowering with crossed arms at White House events when reporters tried to draw him out about McCain.

"Pathetically petty," tweeted Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen‏, a Florida Republican. On the Senate floor, where McCain's desk sat draped in black crepe, topped with a vase of white roses, Republican Johnny Isakson of Georgia said, "Anybody who in any way tarnishes the legacy of John McCain deserves a whippin’. ... I would say to the president or anybody in the world, it's time to pause and say this was a great man.' "

At midafternoon, the flag was lowered and a statement from Trump followed. "Despite our differences on policy and politics, I respect Senator John McCain's service to our country," it said. For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

Surrogates at the services

Trump still won't be appearing at any services for McCain, which is fine with the late Arizona senator's family, because he wasn't invited. But the president's statement said he has directed "Vice President Mike Pence to offer an address" at Friday's ceremony honoring McCain on Capitol Hill, where McCain's body will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda. 

The president said his chief of staff, John Kelly, Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Adviser John Bolton will represent the administration at McCain's services. 

A White House official told The Wall Street Journal that press secretary Sarah Sanders was instrumental, with Kelly's help, in getting the president to agree to the flag-lowering proclamation. They and other White House officials had tried to get Trump to issue an already-drafted statement of tribute upon McCain's death Saturday, but the president refused, according to The Washington Post.

On Monday evening, at a dinner honoring evangelicals, Trump finally spoke out about McCain. "We very much appreciate everything that Senator McCain has done for our country," he said.

Last licks from the maverick

McCain couldn't have known Trump would take such a divisive course in reaction to his passing, but he might have imagined it. A farewell message from McCain to the nation, read aloud Monday by a family spokesman, trolled Trump between its lines.

"We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe," McCain said. "We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been."

McCain, who made peace and forged friendships with political foes, appealed for national unity. 

"We are 325 million opinionated, vociferous individuals. We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country we will get through these challenging times," his statement said. To read it in full, click here.

Janison: Trickle-down Trump

The axiom that all politics is local doesn't necessarily apply in the Trump era, and the exceptions extend beyond races for federal offices such as House and Senate, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.  

Trump-focused controversies are also finding their way into state-level races, such as for governor — perhaps not so much for governmental reasons, but because certain candidates from New York's dominant Democratic Party see easy advantage in attacking Trump.

No position offers a better opportunity for a Democrat to play the role of anti-Trump tribune than the state attorney general's office, which won a settlement in the Trump University case and is now pursuing action against the Trump Foundation.

NAFTA la vista?

The Trump administration reached a preliminary deal Monday with Mexico to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, but it was uncertain whether Canada — a party to the original trade pact — would also come on board.

Trump suggested that he might leave Canada, America's No. 2 trading partner, out of a new agreement. He said he wanted to call the revamped trade pact "the United States-Mexico Trade Agreement" and "get rid of the name NAFTA" because, in his view, the 1990s pact had earned a reputation as being harmful to American workers.

With or without Canada, the deal is far from final. Even after being formally signed, it would have be ratified by lawmakers in each participating country.

Loan ranger rides off in disgust

The government's top official overseeing the $1.5 trillion student loan market resigned Monday as a protest of what he described as the Trump administration's open hostility toward protecting the nation's millions of student loan borrowers.

The student loan office at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was at the center of the lawsuits against for-profit colleges. Since its creation, it has returned $750 million to harmed borrowers. But Seth Frotman, the departing official, accused Trump-installed acting director Mick Mulvaney of using the bureau "to serve the wishes of the most powerful financial companies in America." 

He also charged that Mulvaney and his staff deliberately suppressed a report that raised alarms about banks overcharging student loan borrowers.

Why is Trump paddling Ohr?

Trump has targeted Justice Department official Bruce Ohr as part of the "witch hunt" against him, calling him a "creep," threatening his security clearance and demanding his removal. Present and former colleagues are perplexed, calling the career official a nonpartisan straight arrow, The New York Times reported.

For almost two decades, Ohr has been a leader of federal investigative efforts against Russian organized crime. It's that role that resulted in a relationship with British ex-spy Christopher Steele, who later became the author of the controversial Russia dossier on Trump. Ohr's contacts with Steele on his findings followed internal guidelines, a former official told the Times. Ohr's wife worked for Fusion GPS, which hired Steele, but not on the dossier, a person familiar with her work said.

On Tuesday, Ohr is due to appear before a closed hearing of the House Judiciary and House Oversight committees, which are investigating FBI and Justice activities related to the 2016 election. 

What else is happening:

  • Trump tweeted thanks to NFL legend Jim Brown and golfing great Tiger Woods for, respectively, offering him qualified praise  and passing up a chance to criticize him. Trump recently belittled the intelligence of NBA superstar LeBron James for speaking against him and attacked black  athletes for anthem protests.
  • In another unsupported claim of something "rigged" against him, Trump went on a crying-wolf Twitter tear early Tuesday alleging that actual Google searches for himself are somehow skewed from the left.  
  • Paul Manafort’s defense team held talks with special counsel Robert Mueller's prosecutors, but failed to reach a deal to head off a second trial for the former Trump campaign chairman — this one on charges including money laundering, The Wall Street Journal reported.
  • Jared Kushner's family real estate company has been fined $210,000 by New York City regulators following an Associated Press investigation that showed it routinely filed false documents with the city claiming it had no rent-regulated tenants in its buildings. In fact, it had hundreds.
  • When Trump administration officials moved last year to end temporary protected status for refugees from El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Sudan, they repeatedly pressured career officials to soften their assessments of dangerous conditions in those countries, according to emails and documents reported by CNN.
  • Longtime associates of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani differ on whether he appears shrewd or untethered, The New York Times reports, but a nod toward the latter comes from the divorce attorney for his third wife, Judith Nathan. A statement from Bernard Clair alludes to "the behavioral changes of her husband that have become obvious to even his most ardent supporters.”
  • Lawyers for Trump have suggested a way he could insulate himself from potential campaign violations over the payoffs to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, according to Vanity Fair: Admit to using hush money over a longer period of time to cover up affairs with women. But Trump said no "because of Melania," a source said.

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