Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby tells CNN’s Jim Sciutto that it is “unconscionable” that President Donald Trump lied to U.S. troops in Iraq that he gave them their first pay raise in more than 10 years — a debunked claim Trump has repeatedly told this year.
“To have your commander-in-chief get up in front of you on live television like that and lie, is just unconscionable,” Kirby said, adding that some troops were most likely deeply offended by the lie.
Speaking to troops at Al Asad Air Base during his surprise visit to Iraq, Trump told troops: “You protect us. We are always going to protect you. And you just saw that, ’cause you just got one of the biggest pay raises you’ve ever received. … You haven’t gotten one in more than 10 years. More than 10 years. And we got you a big one. I got you a big one. I got you a big one.”
According to multiple fact-checking websites, military pay has increased every year for more than three decades. It was raised 2.4% in 2018 and then 2.6% in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act. The 2.6% pay raise is the largest in the past 9 years, according to Politifact.
“They had plenty of people that came up, they said, ‘You know, we could make it smaller. We could make it 3%, we could make it 2%, we could make it 4%,'” Trump told the troops about the latest pay raise. “I said, ‘No. Make it 10%. Make it more than 10%.'”
“Cause it’s been a long time, it’s been more than 10 years. Been more than 10 years, that’s a long time,” Trump said, repeating the false claim.
Kirby also said it was “completely inappropriate” for U.S. soldiers in Iraq to have asked President Trump to sign their red “Make America Great Again” hats at his surprise Christmas appearance.
“It is, in fact, a campaign slogan, that is a campaign item, and it’s completely inappropriate for the troops to do this,” Mr. Kirby said Wednesday. “Not supposed to do this. And I’m sure their boss is seeing that. They’re not going to be happy about it.”
CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr called it “very much against military policy and regulation.”
“The pool reporters traveling said that the troops brought the hats with them, including one hat that said ‘Trump 2020,’” said Ms. Starr. “We will have to see if that actually proves to be the case. The question is, if they brought them or if the President brought them: What commander allowed that to really happen?”
She added that, “Troops are not supposed to be involved in political activities. The U.S. military is not a political force.