After footage of President Donald Trump’s visit to U.S. troops in Iraq surfaced showing the Commander in Chief signing “Make America Great Again” hats for soldiers, a former White House ethics chief decried the move on Twitter, saying Trump had engaged in improper “campaign activity”.
Pictures and footage of the visit on Wednesday showed Trump signing “Make America Great Again” hats and “Trump 2020” patches for troops during his and first lady Melania Trump’s three-hour trip to greet service members in Iraq.
Shortly after, former-White House ethics chief Walter Shaub took to Twitter to “shame” and condemn the president for behavior he considered “truly disgusting” at the al-Asad Air Base — a joint U.S.-Iraqi military base west of Baghdad.
“I took down a tweet about what Trump did on his trip to Iraq because I’m worried about the chance that someone might blame the soldiers. It’s not their fault,” he tweeted. “Trump’s engaging in campaign activity during this trip is on Trump and Trump alone. Disgusting. Truly disgusting. Shame!”
Though Trump did not provide the MAGA gear — troops reportedly brought their own for the president to sign — the entire situation likely went against Department of Defense guidelines, Newsweek reported:
The Department of Defense guidelines for political activities 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."
The Department of Defense did not immediately respond to Newsweek’s request for comment.
Retired Rear Adm. John Kirby, who served as a spokesman for the Obama administration, told CNN that troops bringing their Trump campaign items for the president to sign was inappropriate — and the president shares in the blame.
"It is in fact a campaign slogan, that is a campaign item, and it is completely inappropriate for the troops to do this," Kirby said.
Kirby assigned some blame to Trump himself for political activity around the military: "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."