Today the account @realDonaldTrump tweeted :

"The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin. This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!"

Is this an official order per military chain of command? Specifically, would not obeying a tweet constitute a crime, as asserted in this NYTimes article?

In an interview, Chief Gallagher’s lawyer, Timothy Parlatore, said the admiral had to choose one of three courses of action: “Comply with the order and continue on; comply with the order and resign; or disregard the order and go to jail.”

The Department of Justice had earlier said:

“In answer to the Court’s question, the government is treating the President’s statements to which plaintiffs point — whether by tweet, speech or interview — as official statements of the President of the United States,”

Or would actual decisions be implemented by a more formal process?

  • 3
    I would argue that it can't be an official order because Trump has no way of knowing that the tweet will be transmitted (and in a secure fashion) to the responsible Navy officers, whom one might hope are not numbered among the twits.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Nov 22, 2019 at 2:28
  • 1
    Per today's Navy Times, "It remains unclear if Navy leaders consider Trump’s tweet to be an actual order.", (navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2019/11/21/…)
    – prototype
    Commented Nov 22, 2019 at 3:05
  • He's certainly given out apparent orders over twitter, including those regarding transgender troops. The military has feigned uncertainty over whether those are "real" and binding orders or not before, and has tried stalling tactics on such things before, only to eventually have to do it. In this case I don't imagine there's much in the way of stalling that can be done, as this formally only concerns a single individual. Commented Nov 22, 2019 at 3:32
  • 3
    Tweets shouldn't be official anything - the platform is too insecure, people routinely get suckered by parody accounts, the format virtually guarantees misunderstandings. Unfortunately, there is no precedent for this, so it's something that ultimately will have to be addressed via a court decision or legislation.
    – John Bode
    Commented Nov 22, 2019 at 17:32
  • 1
    "But [Navy Secretary William] Spencer said he did not consider a presidential tweet to be an order." washingtonpost.com/national-security/…
    – prototype
    Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 16:28

2 Answers 2


As has been pointed out in the comments, Spencer has said he doesn't consider a tweet to be an official order. But sources are now saying that the White House has given them the go-ahead with the review that may strip Gallagher (and potentially others) of their Trident pins. So even if Trump considered it an official order, it has apparently now been rescinded or otherwise modified. There are no details on why there's an apparent change of heart from President Trump, or if Trump may intend to simply intervene later after the review to reverse a potential removal of the Trident.

Assuming he could, of course. There's some belief that a President does not have the power to issue lawful orders that are wholly concerned with internal administrative matters; like he probably couldn't order them to certify Rudy Giuliani as a Navy Seal, or combat pilot, etc., so he similarly shouldn't be able to interfere in this review, which is entirely about certifying whether someone qualifies to remain a Navy Seal or not. However, I'm not sure such a thing has ever been tested in courts before.


No. Tweets are not orders or official anything. They are not even directed at individuals, but rather at the internet.

  • Isn't the Internet comprised of individuals, sentient and artificial? Commented May 27, 2020 at 20:47
  • Agree that the tweets are likely not official order, but to say they're not "official anything" is a viewpoint many disagree with. Trump's tweets are generally viewed as official communication from POTUS, which has resulted in some arguing that deleting or editing tweets violates the Presidential Records Act which prohibits the destruction of presidential records. Courts have also ruled that Trump cannot legally block people on Twitter, precisely because it's used as a official governmental communication channel rather than a personal one. Commented May 28, 2020 at 16:08

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