When Donald Trump tweeted in July that trans people were suddenly banned from the military, he claimed he made his decision in “consultation with my Generals and military experts.” Now a judge — presiding over a legal challenge to the military ban — is demanding to know who exactly those experts are.
Washington State-based U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman gave the Justice Department until 8 p.m. Eastern to provide the names of those who helped Trump devise his ban, reports the Washington Blade. The Justice Department, defending Trump's ban, previously argued that information was subject to executive privilege, but Pechman disagreed.
“While defendants need not disclose the substance of any communications or documents upon which they intend to rely, their initial disclosures, amended initial disclosures, and second amended initial disclosures are clearly inadequate,” Pechman writes in her order. “Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(1), initial disclosures must identify ‘each individual likely to have discoverable information — along with the subjects of that information — that the disclosing party may use to support its claims or defenses’ as well as ‘all documents, electronically stored information, and tangible things that the disclosing party has in its possession, custody, or control and may use to support its claims or defenses.'”
It's not clear whether the Justice Department will appeal Pechman's demand for information or comply. If it does provide names, it's also not apparent whether the public will be privy to that information.
Pechman's order adds more headaches to Trump's hastily decided trans military ban. Four judges have already issued preliminary injunctions against it — which means trans people can now enlist and serve openly. The impetus for the military ban has always been murky, since, as the Blade points out, Defense Secretary James Mattis was on vacation at the time of the July tweet. Newly released emails also show Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford was unaware of the pending ban and claimed he was not consulted on it. Trump's ban was a reversal of an Obama-era plan to allow trans people to openly serve.
Pechman's order could reveal that far-right Trump advisers like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller crafted the ban; while Bannon served in the Navy and worked at the Pentagon, he is not a general nor considered a military "expert." The judge's ruling also has the potential of showing that Trump devised the ban all on his own.