Trump tweet re­vives ban

Cost, dis­rup­tion cited; McCain rips mes­sage, how it was de­liv­ered

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Abby Phillip, Thomas Gib­bons-Neff and Mike DeBo­nis

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Wed­nes­day an­nounced on Twit­ter that he will ban trans­gen­der peo­ple from serv­ing in the mil­i­tary in any ca­pac­ity, an abrupt re­ver­sal of an Obama-ad­min­is­tra­tion de­ci­sion to al­low them to serve openly and a po­ten­tial end to the ca­reers of thou­sands of ac­tive-duty troops.

The de­ci­sion halts a years-long process of ad­vanc­ing rights for les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der peo­ple in the U.S. mil­i­tary that be­gan with the re­peal of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” pol­icy in 2010. And the na­ture of the an­nounce­ment left Repub­li­cans and Democrats in Congress con­cerned about the seem­ing broad scope of Trump’s or­der.

Cit­ing the need to fo­cus on what he called “de­ci­sive and over­whelm­ing vic­tory,” Trump said that the mil­i­tary can­not ac­cept the bur­den of higher med­i­cal costs and the dis­rup­tion caused by trans­gen­der troops.

“Af­ter con­sul­ta­tion with my Gen­er­als and mil­i­tary ex­perts, 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 wrote on Twit­ter. “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.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, the chair­man of the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee who in 2010 op­posed end­ing “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” crit­i­cized Trump’s de­ci­sion in a state­ment, at­tack­ing how it was de­liv­ered and its im­pli­ca­tions for ac­tive-duty trans­gen­der troops.

“The pres­i­dent’s tweet this morn­ing re­gard­ing trans­gen­der Amer­i­cans in the mil­i­tary is yet an­other ex­am­ple of why ma­jor pol­icy an­nounce­ments should not be made via Twit­ter,” McCain said. “The state­ment was un­clear. The Depart­ment of De­fense has al­ready de­cided to al­low cur­rent-

ly serv­ing trans­gen­der in­di­vid­u­als to stay in the mil­i­tary, and many are serv­ing hon­or­ably to­day. Any Amer­i­can who meets cur­rent med­i­cal and readi­ness stan­dards should be al­lowed to con­tinue serv­ing. There is no rea­son to force ser­vice mem­bers who are able to fight, train and de­ploy to leave the mil­i­tary — re­gard­less of their gen­der iden­tity.”

Trump was lob­bied for over a year by con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­cans to roll back the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion pol­icy change. Chris­tian con­ser­va­tive lead­ers pressed him on the is­sue as a can­di­date in June 2016 dur­ing a meet­ing in New York just af­ter Trump se­cured the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion for pres­i­dent. Many of them said the mil­i­tary is no place for “so­cial ex­per­i­men­ta­tion” at the ex­pense of mil­i­tary readi­ness.

Though they were pleased with Trump’s de­ci­sion, Wed­nes­day’s an­nounce­ment came with no prior warn­ing to those same con­ser­va­tive lead­ers. It also was a sur­prise to many on Capi­tol Hill.

Trump’s de­ci­sion comes two weeks af­ter the House re­jected an amend­ment to the an­nual de­fense pol­icy bill that would have blocked the Pen­tagon from of­fer­ing gen­der tran­si­tion ther­a­pies to ac­tive-duty ser­vice mem­bers. Twenty-four Repub­li­cans joined 190 Democrats vot­ing to re­ject the mea­sure.

But con­ser­va­tive law­mak­ers — many of them mem­bers of the House Free­dom Cau­cus — had threat­ened to with­hold sup­port for a spend­ing bill if Congress did not act to pro­hibit the Pen­tagon from pay­ing for the pro­ce­dures. The im­passe broadly threat­ened gov­ern­ment spend­ing but, most im­por­tantly for Trump, it po­ten­tially held up money that had been ap­pro­pri­ated for the bor­der wall be­tween the U.S. and Mex­ico, a key prom­ise he had made dur­ing the cam­paign.

A White House of­fi­cial and a House GOP of­fi­cial con­firmed that Reps. Mark Mead­ows, R-N.C., Jim Jor­dan, R-Ohio, and Scott Perry, R-Pa., all Free­dom Cau­cus mem­bers, were in talks with the White House and House lead­er­ship on the is­sue.

They were will­ing to ac­cept a Depart­ment of De­fense or White House pro­vi­sion that ad­dressed pay­ing for pro­ce­dures — well short of a ban on trans­gen­der peo­ple serv­ing in the mil­i­tary, ac­cord­ing to the House of­fi­cial who, like oth­ers, spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause he was not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly on the is­sue.

Trump went well be­yond what they re­quested.

This year, Trump’s mil­i­tary lead­er­ship had sig­naled that they needed more time to fully as­sess the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the last sig­nif­i­cant piece of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ap­proach, de­lay­ing the en­try of trans­gen­der mil­i­tary re­cruits un­til the end of 2017. The pol­icy in place would have al­lowed them to be­gin serv­ing July 1, but De­fense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis de­layed it just be­fore the dead­line, cit­ing a need for more study.

The six-month de­lay was re­quested by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and would have al­lowed a fur­ther re­view of how in­te­grat­ing trans­gen­der re­cruits would af­fect the mil­i­tary’s “readi­ness and lethal­ity,” Mat­tis said in a memo last month.

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