The Slatest

Did Trump Break Pentagon Rules by Signing MAGA Hats in Iraq?

President Donald Trump signs a hat as First Lady Melania Trump looks on as they greet members of the U.S. military during an unannounced trip to Al Asad Air Base in Iraq on December 26, 2018.
President Donald Trump signs a hat as First Lady Melania Trump looks on as they greet members of the U.S. military during an unannounced trip to Al Asad Air Base in Iraq on December 26, 2018.
SAUL LOEB/Getty Images

When President Donald Trump made his first visit to a conflict zone Wednesday, he got a warm reception from troops in Iraq. But some servicemembers may have given him too warm of a reception that could have veered into campaigning—a big no, no for the military. Photos from Trump’s visit shows that he signed “Make America Great Again” hats and even a patch that called for his reelection, reading “Trump 2020.”

“What commander allowed that to really happen?” CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr asked Wednesday night. “Troops are not supposed to be involved in political activities, the U.S. military is not a political force.”

It seems many of the troops had the hats on hand. Bloomberg White House reporter Jennifer Epstein posted a photo to Twitter showing servicemembers with MAGA hats waiting for the president to arrive. She also posted someone holding up a Trump banner, which she allegedly drooped “after she saw me taking a photo.”

Who brought the hats though is irrelevant, according to CNN analysts. “It is in fact a campaign slogan, that is a campaign item, and it is completely inappropriate for the troops to do this,” Retired Rear Adm. John Kirby, a former Obama administration spokesperson and a CNN analyst, said. Some also expressed concern that Trump’s speech to the troops sounded more like a campaign rally than a commander in chief going to visit servicemembers. “The United States cannot continue to be the policeman of the world,” Trump told troops at one point. “It’s not fair when the burden is all on us, the United States… We are spread out all over the world. We are in countries most people haven’t even heard about. Frankly, it’s ridiculous.”