Trump calls it 'insane' to publicly release military watchdog reports

President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Democrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure MORE on Wednesday told his new acting Defense secretary to stop publicly releasing watchdog reports on the U.S. military, calling the practice “insane.”

“We do these reports on our military. Some [inspector general] goes over there — who [were] mostly appointed by President Obama, but we’ll have ours too — and he goes over there and they do a report on every single thing that’s happening and they release it to the public,” Trump said.

“For these reports criticizing every single thing — and even in some cases saying good, perhaps — but for these reports, to give it out, forget about the public, given out to the enemy is insane. And I don’t want that to happen anymore, Mr. Secretary, you understand that.”

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Trump’s comment came during a Cabinet meeting in which he went off about former Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisPentagon reporters left in dark as Iran tensions escalate Trump officials slow-walk president's order to cut off Central American aid: report Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Trump nominates Shanahan as Pentagon chief | House panel advances bill to block military funds for border wall | Trump defends Bolton despite differences MORE, saying he “essentially" fired Mattis in part because he was “not too good” on Afghanistan.

The meeting came on the first full day as acting Defense secretary for Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget Tensions swirl around Iran as administration to brief Congress Overnight Defense: Iran tensions swirl as officials prepare to brief Congress | Trump threatens war would be 'end of Iran' | Graham tells Trump to 'stand firm' | Budget talks begin MORE, who has been deputy Defense secretary since July 2017.

The Pentagon’s inspector general (IG) declined to comment, as did the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the watchdog responsible for tracking U.S. progress specifically in Afghanistan.

The federal law that created and set standards for several inspectors general says that when an overseas contingency operation lasts more than 60 days, a lead IG for that war must be chosen. That IG has to submit quarterly reports to Congress on the operation and "make [them] available on an Internet website available to the public," the law says.

SIGAR in particular has been highly critical of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. Its most recent quarterly report said Afghan government control or influence of its districts is at the lowest point since the watchdog began tracking that data in 2015.

SIGAR has also complained during the Trump administration about the increasing classification of information it used to be able to publicly release. The information is largely related to Afghan forces, such as their casualty numbers. The Pentagon has said it was the Afghan government’s decision to classify the data.

In his remarks Wednesday, Trump indicated that he’s complained about the inspector general reports before in private, saying that it is “one of the thing I’ve told the secretary and other people.”

“What kind of stuff is this? We’re fighting wars, and they’re doing reports and releasing it to the public,” Trump said. “Now the public means the enemy. The enemy reads those reports. They study every line of it. Those reports should be private reports. Let them do a report, but they should be private reports and be locked up and if a member of Congress wants to see it, he can go in and read it.”

Updated at 6:10 p.m.