By Alexandra Alper and Idrees Ali
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A decision by the Trump administration earlier this year to move the flag honoring missing war veterans from a prominent position atop the White House to a less visible spot on the South Lawn has angered some veterans and lawmakers, who see it as disrespectful and potentially illegal.
The flag is dedicated to prisoners of war and service members who are missing in action. According to a White House video posted in June, it was relocated in a private ceremony with full military honors, months after President Donald Trump signed into law a bill requiring the flag to be flown at certain federal sites including the White House every day.
The revelations come amid growing questions over Trump’s respect for the military, after a report last week by the Atlantic magazine alleging that Trump had called fallen American soldiers “losers” and “suckers” sparked outrage and controversy.
Trump denied the assertions, but has publicly disparaged the service of the late Senator John McCain, a war veteran, and was accused of criticizing his own generals in excerpts of a forthcoming book titled “Rage,” by Bob Woodward.
“It’s bad enough that President Trump publicly ridicules American heroes like Senator McCain and others who were captured on the battlefield. He inexplicably promotes the Confederate flag but fails to fly the POW/MIA flag,” said Democratic Senator Jack Reed, a co-sponsor of the bill. “It’s part of a pattern of disrespect by President Trump toward those who honorably served our nation.”
Reed, and fellow Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Margaret Hassan, who also co-sponsored the bill, sent a letter to the White House on Thursday requesting that it reconsider the flag’s relocation.
“This decision to abruptly move the POW/MIA Flag from atop the White House to an area that is apparently not visible to the public may violate federal law and does not appropriately honor the service and sacrifices of American prisoners of war, missing servicemembers, and their families,” the letter reads.
The White House defended the change of venue but did not offer a reason for it.
“President Trump dedicated a POW/MIA memorial site earlier this year on the White House grounds to forever remember our heroic service members who were prisoners of war or missing in action,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said. “The President selected a site on the Southwest corner of the South Lawn for this prominent and sacred memorial, which is visible to all those who visit the White House, that features the POW/MIA flag,” he added.
The black and white flag, which reads “you are not forgotten,” depicts a man beneath a guard tower gazing down at a barbed wire fence. Roughly 82,000 American servicemembers are still missing since World War Two.
U.S. law requires the flag to be displayed in a “manner designed to ensure visibility to the public.” In its current position, it