Donald Trump Signing MAGA Hats for Troops During Iraq Trip Is 'Truly Disgusting,' Says Ex-White House Ethics Chief

A former White House ethics chief criticized Donald Trump for engaging in campaign activity" by signing "Make America Get Again" hats during his unannounced visit to troops in Iraq today — the president's first trip to a war zone since he was elected.

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!"

The troops — who brought the MAGA gear for the president to sign — may have breached military rules by asking Trump for his signature. 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.

On Wednesday afternoon, Bloomberg White House reporter Jennifer Epstein posted to Twitter an image of troops raising their MAGA hats in the air while waiting for the president to arrive. Epstein also posted another of a servicewoman holding up a blue Trump MAGA banner. "Trump flag (she dropped it after she saw me taking a photo)," Epstein wrote, alongside the photo.

Trump flag (she dropped it after she saw me taking a photo)

— Jennifer Epstein (@jeneps) December 27, 2018

The president said he was going to visit the troops before he set off to Florida for Thanksgiving last month. At the time, Trump did not reveal a specific time, date or location, which is normal for presidents traveling to war zones due to security reasons.

On Wednesday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed the visit on Twitter. "President Trump and the First Lady traveled to Iraq late on Christmas night to visit with our troops and Senior Military leadership to thank them for their service, their success, and their sacrifice and to wish them a Merry Christmas," she tweeted, alongside a photo of the president and first lady smiling with some troops.

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump greet members of the US military during an unannounced trip to Al Asad Air Base in Iraq on December 26, 2018. Getty/Saul Loeb