CNN is accusing U.S. troops stationed in Iraq of breaching protocol by having President Donald Trump sign “Make America Great Again” hats during the president’s official visit.
Trump and first lady Melania departed late Christmas evening on a surprise visit to Al Asad Air Base in Iraq. (RELATED: Trump Had One Main Concern About Visiting Iraq)
Prior to the trip, Trump had been criticized repeatedly by the media for not visiting a war zone during his time in office. NBC News prematurely accused the president of skipping the presidential tradition of meeting with troops around Christmastime, writing shortly before the president’s unannounced visit to Iraq, “Trump becomes first president since 2002 not to visit troops at Christmastime.”
Being unable to criticize Trump for visiting the troops, some news outlets turned their focus to the service members who received him.
CNN noticed that some of the troops carried “Make America Great Again” hats and asked the president to sign them. CNN repeatedly suggested on Twitter and on air that the troops had violated military rules by having the hats.
“Troops bringing President Trump ‘Make America Great Again’ hats to sign may have violated a military rule,” CNN tweeted Thursday.
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) December 27, 2018
CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta asked Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr and former Pentagon spokesman John Kirby on air if, in fact, the troops erred by having the hats and a “Trump 2020” sign.
“It is in fact a campaign slogan, it is a campaign item, and it’s completely inappropriate for them to do this,” Kirby said. “Not supposed to do this and I’m sure that their boss is seeing this and they’re not gonna be happy about it.”
Starr agreed, stating, “This is very much against military policy and regulation.”
Here, CNN asks if troops serving in a war zone on Christmas should be disciplined for having Trump sign ‘Trump 2020’ gear.
Is there any line of questioning beneath CNN? pic.twitter.com/dc4UU3Chyc
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) December 27, 2018
CNN analyst and former FBI agent Josh Campbell went a step further than just suggesting the troops were guilty of misconduct and accused the president of using the troops as “political pawns” in photo ops.
Three things can all be true at the same time:
* A President honorably visiting troops overseas
* Deployed troops grateful to see their President
* A White House using troops as political pawns in photo ops
— Josh Campbell (@joshscampbell) December 27, 2018
Active duty members are prohibited from engaging in “partisan political activities.” Examples of prohibited activities include campaigning for a political candidate, soliciting contributions, and wearing a uniform to a partisan political event.
Geoffrey Ingersoll, a former Marine and The Daily Caller editor-in-chief, pointed out that the president is not currently a candidate for office and was not visiting for a campaign event.
Not even could. It wasn’t a campaign event and they were not there in any official capacity to support a candidate for public office.
— Geoffrey Ingersoll (@GPIngersoll) December 27, 2018
Combat-wounded Staff Sergeant (Ret.) Johnny Joey Jones also brushed off the idea that the troops could be disciplined for their behavior.
“Trump isn’t currently running for anything or against anyone. He’s a sitting president and MAGA is his fundamental policy idea,” Jones told TheDC. “I was active duty, in uniform, at the White House when Obama grabbed my dinner menu and signed it for me. I was active duty, working for the Republican HVAC when Obama signed my SOTU invitation.”
Jones added, “It was undisciplined and you wouldn’t see Marines acting that way, but it would be a steep hill with contradicting precedents to try and punish someone for it.”