“Please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,” Trump tweeted amid a deepening Russia crisis and another Obamacare repeal attempt that will likely go down in flames. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
When press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders addressed the media a few hours after the tweet, she had no answer to the question of whether currently serving trans service members will be thrown out of the military.
"That's something that the Department of Defense and the White House will have to work together as implementation takes place and is done so lawfully," she stated.
When pushed for more details on why Trump made such a decision after promising during the election to protect LGBT people, Sanders said her boss felt open trans service — enacted under President Obama — was an "expensive and disruptive policy [and] erodes military readiness and unit cohesion."
When questions persisted on the trans ban, Sanders threatened to end the briefing. "Guys, I really don't have anything to add on that topic. As I do I'll keep you posted. If those are the only questions we have, I'm going to call it a day."
So, if trans service members are such a problem, you'd think there would be a clear plan on how to phase out their service. It doesn't look that way — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was on vacation when Trump made his announcement. There doesn't even appear to be a blueprint on what happens next for trans service members.
Trump's shocking decision didn't even warrant an official White House press release, which would be standard protocol for such a sweeping policy change. The president seems to have decided to punish transgender people for several reasons, according to reports and social media supposition. There's the distraction element, the belief that Trump wants to push a wedge issue in the 2018 midterm elections, his attempt to mollify conservative Congress members and donors who have long targeted trans military service, and a drawn-out budget battle where conservative Congress members threatened funding for his Mexican border wall unless he pulled funding for gender-confirmation surgeries in the military.
Just spoke to a Trump administration official about the transgender military decision. Here's what they said... pic.twitter.com/eOWdvlxTfd
— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) July 26, 2017
Republican right-wingers weren't really floating banning all trans service, according to Politico; they just wanted to end funding for the surgeries. Trump apparently decided to go above and beyond.
When asked by a reporter at a Wednesday photo op to explain his trans ban, Trump responded thusly: "You're rude."