Trump won't let Pentagon close Stars and Stripes newspaper

FILE - In this July 10, 2020, file photo Defense Secretary Mark Esper speaks during a briefing on counternarcotics operations at U.S. Southern Command in Doral, Fla. Esper plans to fly nearly halfway around the world this week to tiny Palau, which no Pentagon chief has ever visited. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
FILE - In this July 10, 2020, file photo Defense Secretary Mark Esper speaks during a briefing on counternarcotics operations at U.S. Southern Command in Doral, Fla. Esper plans to fly nearly halfway around the world this week to tiny Palau, which no Pentagon chief has ever visited. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Friday that he won't allow the Pentagon to cut funding for the military's independent newspaper, Stars and Stripes, effectively halting Defense leaders' plan to shut the paper down this month.

“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 new 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, are shining 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.

The Defense Department has ordered the paper to halt publication by Sept. 30, and dissolve the organization by the end of January. The order, in a recent memo to Stripes, follows the Pentagon's move earlier this year to cut the $15.5 million in funding for the paper from the Defense Department budget. And it is a reflection of the Trump administration's broader animosity for the media and members of the press.

The Trump White House hadn't spoken out against the Pentagon plan to close the paper before 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.

“I’ve done more for the military than almost anyone else,” he said Friday in the Oval Office.

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 Pentagon had no immediate comment on Trump's tweet or how it may affect Esper's plan to ultimately shut down the paper.