WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump made his first visit to a war zone on Wednesday, receiving an enthusiastic reception from many US troops there — some of whom may have run afoul of military rules.
Video footage and the written report of Trump’s visit with service members in Iraq showed the President signing “Make America Great Again” hats and an embroidered patch that read “Trump 2020.”
But troops’ requests for the autographs could brush up against Department of Defense guidelines for political activities.
Those guidelines say 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.”
US military authorities in the coalition did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Retired Rear Adm. John Kirby, a former Obama administration spokesperson and a CNN analyst, said on CNN’s “The Situation Room” on Wednesday that service members having Trump sign the items was inappropriate.
“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.”