Pentagon rejects notion that Defense Department is trolling Trump on Twitter

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The suggestion that the Defense Department has posted social media messages as a form of protest to President Trump is “ridiculous,” a Pentagon spokesman said Thursday.

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters that recent messages posted on the Defense Department Twitter page are nothing out of the ordinary, and part of steady communication with the general public, active-duty troops and veterans. The question came after the Defense Department tweeted a story Wednesday about a former Iraqi refugee who enlisted in the Marine Corps after reports emerged that Trump, who was sworn in Friday, was considering an executive order seeking to halt refugee resettlement in the United States.

The tweet linked to a Defense Department news release that shared the story of Cpl. Ali J. Mohammed, who grew up in Baghdad, and moved to the United States at 16 years old after his family received numerous threats for supporting U.S. policies. He joined the Marines in November 2014.

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“If you look at this, this isn’t some unique thing,” Davis said. “If you look at this, we are tweeting from the Department of Defense account a dozen or more times a day.”

The Defense Department has released stories previously about Iraqis who joined the U.S. military. In one example, the Marine Corps published a story Sept. 30 about a Marine, Pfc. Amanda Issa, whose family fled the city of Mosul in 2011 and eventually settled in Michigan.

The Defense Department tweet Wednesday drew widespread attention on social media.

The attention followed another Defense Department tweet Monday that warned followers that social media can provide hints on a person’s mental health.

Some followers questioned whether that was posted in response to Trump, who tweets often.

The tweet included a link to a Defense Department page focused on preventing suicide, a longterm problem among active-duty service members and veterans.

Davis said Thursday that the tweet about mental health was “simply about teaching people the warning signs about suicide, and that was misinterpreted and taken and unfortunately. . . preyed upon by the trolls of the Internet.”

“It’s really unfortunate, because it’s a serious message,” Davis said.

The tweets were sent as the Trump administration restricted the authorization for other agencies to release information to the public. They also came as other agencies, such as Badlands National Park, tweeted messages about climate change that were construed by some followers as a response to Trump questioning its existence. The National Parks Service also retweeted images that showed the size of of Trump’s inauguration day in an unflattering light, prompting a temporary shutdown of social media accounts at the Department of Interior.

(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Dan Lamothe