S.E. Cupp is a CNN political commentator and the host of “SE Cupp Unfiltered.” The views expressed in this commentary are solely hers. View more opinion articles on CNN.

(CNN)Before a bombshell story in The Atlantic revealed eye-popping allegations that President Donald Trump had referred to America’s fallen soldiers as “losers” and “suckers,” another story was making its way into the ether without much notice.

S.E. CuppS.E. CuppS.E. CuppIn February of 2020, the Pentagon ordered Stars and Stripes, the longtime publication serving United States’ service members, to shutter, demanding that the last newspaper publication be September 30, 2020. That’s according to a little publicized memo from Col. Paul Haverstick, Jr., recently obtained by USA Today, in which he claims the administration has the authority to red-line the $15.5 million annual subsidy for Stars and Stripes in the President’s fiscal year 2021 Defense Department budget, indicating the order comes from the top. It’s no surprise, given President Trump’s seething disdain for the media and its coverage of him. After a wave of outrage at the news, Trump seemed to realize the move would not endear him to a key constituency. He tweeted, triumphantly and as if totally divorced from the initial demand: Read More”The United States of America will NOT be cutting funding to @starsandstripes magazine under my watch. It will continue to be a wonderful source of information to our Great Military!” What happens if we don't know who our president is on Election Day? What happens if we don't know who our president is on Election Day? What happens if we don't know who our president is on Election Day? Ultimately, this will be Congress’s decision. And they would be wise to ignore the DoD order. Stars and Stripes is not just any publication. It’s been a vital resource for US troops and veterans for more than 150 years, making this decision an infuriating one for those who believe the military deserves better than to be a casualty of Trump’s petty politics of revenge. Stars and Stripes is, in one aspect, the local news provider on US military bases around the world. It is read by enlisted and deployed troops here and overseas, veterans and civilians for its coverage of important stories to the military community. It is also an important agent of investigative journalism. From veteran suicides and sexual assault to Covid-19 on bases, military housing issues and defense spending, Stars and Stripes has been on the literal front lines for more than a century. I spoke to several current and former Stars and Stripes reporters, editors, photojournalists and loyal readers, who expressed a deep sense of concern and urgency over the decision, and they explained why Stripes is such an important part of their community. Bryce Dubee, a veteran and former Stripes reporter, was an active duty Army soldier when he was assigned as a reporter to the Tokyo Bureau for three years. For him, the newspaper is invaluable to families stationed overseas. Retired general: Look for this in your next president Retired general: Look for this in your next president Retired general: Look for this in your next president “We covered everything from local crime stories, base housing policy issues, education reporting, high school sports, hospital billing mistakes, off-post restaurant reviews, changes to local laws that Americans need to be aware of — I even did some volcano coverage once,” he remembers. “Military public affairs just won’t cover a lot of those topics, and when you’re a young service member or spouse who suddenly finds yourself stationed in another country, possibly for the first time in your life, Stripes is literally the only local news source that’s there for you to give you that information.” Geoff Ziezulewicz, a senior reporter for Military Times, was a Stripes reporter from 2005 to 2012 in Germany, England, Italy and in repeated downrange embeds in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition to important local stories, it’s also the news from home that is so appreciated. “Deployed troops used to tell me that reading a copy of Stripes, even if it was days old, was a high point in their days in Iraq or Afghanistan. I think reading NFL recaps or the comics was a tether to deployed service members because life downrange can feel like you’re on another planet.” Steve Beynon told me he read Stars and Stripes on a mountain in Afghanistan when he was a 19-year-old aspiring journalist. He is now the publication’s Veterans reporter. The '60-day rule' for elections Barr may be willing to bend for TrumpThe '60-day rule' for elections Barr may be willing to bend for TrumpThe '60-day rule' for elections Barr may be willing to bend for TrumpFor that community in particular, he worries about the impact the potential closing of the publication will have. “Between 2005 and 2017,” he says, “78,875 veterans took their own lives and the VA has seemingly not been able to put a dent into the crisis. To lose Stars and Stripes would not only cripple access to news for military families and troops, but it would also kneecap accountability of the institutions which consume the bulk of taxpayer dollars.” Indeed, it’s hard to justify the potential savings of shutting down the outlet when compared to the billions of taxpayer dollars Stars and Stripes holds accountable at DoD. According to a letter to DoD Secretary Mark Esper signed by a bipartisan group of Senators, including Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Sen. Shelley Capito, the $15.5 million saved by eliminating the paper would have a “negligible impact” on its $700 billion budget. According to Stars and Stripes’ own reporting, Esper moved to strip the funding after a review of Pentagon spending, deciding to divert that money to “higher-priority issues,” like purchasing modern weapons. It’s exactly that kind of decision that justifies the important and necessary journalism of Stars and Stripes — an organization that is uniquely a part of but independent from the military. Where we need the most diverse team of advisers for US safetyWhere we need the most diverse team of advisers for US safetyWhere we need the most diverse team of advisers for US safetyErnie Gates, who served one term as Stripes’ ombudsman from 2012-2016, and is serving his second term currently, addressed that complex but important role. “My charge is to hold the newsroom accountable to journalism standards, and to defend its independence from command interference. What DoD proposes would be fatal interference for a unique First Amendment organization that has served US troops reliably for generations.” As Gates explained, Stripes’ value lies in its singularity. Its “independent content is not duplicated by other news organizations,” nor are its far-flung reporting and distribution abilities hindered by the limitations of profit-oriented operating models. Stripes has likewise adapted to the digital era, delivering news and content on print, web, tablet, mobile, podcast and other platforms. The print product is especially vital in geographic areas with no internet service. Communities all over America have suffered from the slow death of local news. One in five newspapers in the US has shuttered over the past 15 years — almost 1,800 papers since 2004 — according to research from the University of North Carolina. The impact is demonstrable.The real reason Trump wants to talk about Pelosi's hairThe real reason Trump wants to talk about Pelosi's hairThe real reason Trump wants to talk about Pelosi's hairAs one Florida resident, whose local paper was shuttered, told The New York Times: “After years without a strong local voice, our community does not know itself … We are a nameless and faceless town defined only by neighborhoods.” An editor and publisher of a now-defunct New York newspaper had this bleak warning: “We were a check on governments, on endless environmental and zoning hearings, on budgets that we often published in detail, on misdoings and good doings. There is now a void. No one took up the slack.” Local news is vital to every community, large and small. When it comes to our military community at home and around the globe, this could not be more crucial. I asked the publisher of Stars and Stripes, Max Lederer, Jr., about the mood there in the wake of the order. “It’s not great right now,” he said. “There’s a lot of anxiety, especially for people who have worked for the organization for a long time and deeply believe in its mission, who see this as a symbol of a big loss to the military community and the country as a whole.” Congress must do what’s right. The House has already approved a budget that restores funding to Stars and Stripes. The Senate has yet to act, but that bipartisan letter to Secretary Esper made the point clear, that “Stars and Stripes is an essential part of our nation’s freedom of the press that serves the very population charged with defending that freedom.” Get our free weekly newsletter

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The President’s disaffection for democratic institutions like the free press has already put too many communities in jeopardy. When you silence the press, you empower the already powerful, and open doors for corruption, injustice and systemic abuse. Willfully pulling a curtain over the military and the Department of Defense, as too many recent examples have proven, is a truly terrible and costly proposition. As Lederer said, “We are closing up and darkening the way the government works, in this case, the Department of Defense, which is not healthy for democracy.” But also for the countless Americans who put on a uniform or who died wearing one, cutting off this lifeline would also be a travesty and an unforgivable slap in the face.

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