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Idaho Capitol waited for directive from Trump to lower flags

Flags atop the Idaho Capitol were still flying at full staff Aug. 27, 2018, nearly 48 hours after Sen. John McCain’s death, because Gov. Butch Otter was waiting for a proclamation from President Donald Trump. The flags were later lowered that afternoon. (Cynthia Sewell / Idaho Statesman)
Flags atop the Idaho Capitol were still flying at full staff Aug. 27, 2018, nearly 48 hours after Sen. John McCain’s death, because Gov. Butch Otter was waiting for a proclamation from President Donald Trump. The flags were later lowered that afternoon. (Cynthia Sewell / Idaho Statesman)

BOISE – U.S. Sen. John McCain died late Saturday afternoon at his ranch near Sedona, Arizona.

First thing Monday, the calls started to Gov. Butch Otter’s office. Why, callers asked, wasn’t the U.S. flag atop the Idaho Capitol flying at half-staff?

The flag in Idaho wasn’t lowered in honor of McCain until late Monday afternoon. Before then, Otter was waiting for direction from President Donald Trump, his office said.

“Usually a directive on that comes from the White House,” said Otter spokesman Jon Hanian. “We did not receive one.”

Under U.S. flag code, only the president or a state governor can order an American flag lowered to half-staff.

The president issues such an order when a national or foreign dignitary dies; state governors issue them when a former or present respective state official dies. When a dignitary from another state dies, Otter waits to hear from the president, Hanian said.

The White House lowered its flag Saturday and Sunday, as called for in flag code, then raised its flag back up by Monday morning. After complaints from veterans groups, Trump issued a proclamation Monday afternoon ordering U.S. flags flown be at half-staff until McCain’s interment.

Otter then instructed his staff to lower the Idaho flag.


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