The Colorado Republican Party posted a photo on its official Facebook page showing a military Humvee on a Kentucky highway flying a flag in support of President Donald Trump.
And next to the flag, the posting noted that the incident was under investigation – and asked visitors to the page a simple question: “Do you believe the Pentagon should investigate the East Coast-based SEAL unit for flying a ‘Trump flag?’”
As a result, VERIFY – a new project of 9NEWS – set out to determine two things: Whether the incident really was under investigation, and whether the service members flying the flag violated any military regulation.
The answer in both cases was yes.
The photograph in question came to the attention of the Navy on Saturday, according to Lt. Jacqui Maxwell, a spokeswoman for Naval Special Warfare Group 2 based in Virginia Beach, Va. The Humvee in question was part of a convoy from that unit.
Maxwell said the Navy launched an investigation once it learned about the existence of the photograph – officially a “command inquiry” in military terms.
Flying the Trump flag violated two rules.
First, Maxwell said, Department of Defense and Navy regulations proscribe which flags and pennants may be displayed – and the way they may be displayed.
“The flag shown in the video was unauthorized and not approved,” Maxwell said.
Say, for instance, the unit wanted to express its support for one of the teams in the Super Bowl and flew that squad’s flag. That would be a no-no.
Second, Maxwell cited the Hatch Act, which prohibits employees in the executive branch of government from engaging in political activities.
On that point, Maxwell read directly from the defense department regulations: “Per longstanding DOD policy, 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.”
Maxwell said there is no specific timeline for the investigation. Once it is completed, the unit’s commander will determine what discipline – if any – to mete out.
VERIFY is a 9NEWS fact-checking project. Do you have a question you want us to ask, a claim you want us to verify? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.