President Donald Trump surprised the world yesterday when he made his first visit to a war zone, but according to CNN, some of the troops may have violated military rules.
On Wednesday, December 26, President Trump and his wife, first lady Melania made a surprise visit to U.S. Troops in Iraq after being subject to some backlash for being the first sitting president not to do so during the Christmas holiday.
He was received with a warm welcome by troops, with reports and video footage showing service members getting autographs from the president on his signature “Make America Great Again” hats that became popular during his 2016 campaign, and now don an embroidered patch reading “Trump 2020.”
And while the autographs seem to have been exciting momentos for service members in the moment, it seems that the request for them by military personnel may have been in violation of guidelines for political activities set by the Department of Defense.
The guideline, which is from the DoD’s Standards of Conduct Office, states that “active duty personnel may not engage in partisan political activities and all military personnel should avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply DoD sponsorship, approval, or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign, or cause.”
While U.S. military authorities in the coalition have not yet responded to the request for comment regarding the situation, some have been vocal about their disapproval for the interaction in the day since Trump made his surprise visit.
For retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, the autograph request certainly was out of line.
“It is in fact a campaign slogan, that is a campaign item, and it is completely inappropriate for the troops to do this,” Kirby, who is a former Obama administration spokesperson and CNN analyst, said on The Situation Room on Wednesday.
But he couldn’t place the blame entirely on the troops, assigning some of it to the president himself for engaging in military activity while visiting military personnel.
“Every time he’s around military audiences, he tends to politicize it, and he brings in complaints and grievances from outside the realm of military policy,” Kirby noted.
CNN’s Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr felt similarly, calling the situation “very much against military policy and regulation,” the Washington Times reported, and thought that the real issue wasn’t whether the hats were provided by the president or the troops but rather which commander allowed it to happen in the first place.