Pentagon rescinding order to shutter Stars and Stripes paper

A beam of light is seen over the Pentagon, as part of the Towers of Light Tribute marking the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
A beam of light is seen over the Pentagon, as part of the Towers of Light Tribute marking the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

WASHINGTON – The Defense Department is rescinding its order to shut down the military’s independent newspaper, Stars and Stripes, in the wake of a tweet late last week by President Donald Trump vowing to continue funding the paper.

In an email to Stripes’ publisher Max Lederer, Army Col. Paul Haverstick said the paper does not have to submit a plan to close. Haverstick, acting director of the Pentagon’s Defense Media Activity, said a formal memo is being drafted that will rescind the order to halt publication by Sept. 30, and dissolve the organization by the end of January. The email was obtained by The Associated Press.

“The memo will be provided once it is completed and properly vetted and approved within the Department,” said Haverstick's email. “We are trying to get this completed by the weekend, but this timeline may shift based on vetting.”

The Defense Department had ordered the paper to shut down following the Pentagon’s move earlier this year to cut the $15.5 million in funding for Stars and Stripes from the budget. Last Friday, as news of the shutdown order trickled out, Trump abruptly tweeted his opposition to the plan.

“The United States of America will NOT be cutting funding to @starsandstripes magazine under my watch,” Trump tweeted. “It will continue to be a wonderful source of information to our Great Military!”

Trump’s tweet came as he fought off accusations that he called service members killed in World War I “losers” and “suckers” during an event in France in 2018. The comments, first reported by The Atlantic and confirmed by The Associated Press, shined a fresh light on Trump’s previous public disparaging of American troops and military families and they delivered a new campaign issue to his Democratic rival Joe Biden, less than two months from Election Day.

Trump was alleged to have made the comments about the war dead as he was set to visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery during a trip to France in November 2018.

The Trump White House hadn’t spoken out against the Pentagon plan to close the paper before last Friday, even though it’s been in the works and publicly written about for months and was in the president’s budget request. Friday afternoon, however, Trump worked to shore up his reputation as a staunch supporter of the nation’s armed services.