President Trump’s tweeted announcement of a ban on transgender people serving in the armed forces (supposedly under generals’ advice and due to “tremendous medical costs and disruption”) shocked many people, not the least of which were America’s military leaders. As such, CNN has spoken with three U.S. defense officials who say that not only were the Joint Chiefs of Staff completely unaware of the substance of Trump’s impending tweets, but military leaders among all four branches were effectively “blindsided” by the announcement itself.
A day later — and after Mike Pence and Steve Bannon have been fingered as the driving forces for this policy change — Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford has issued a letter to say that the military will not abide by Trump’s announcement. At least, they’re not doing so yet:
“I know there are questions about yesterday’s announcement on the transgender policy by the president. There will be no modifications to the current policy until the president’s direction has been received by the secretary of defense and the secretary has issued implementation guidance.”
Dunford’s statement was made, of course, because the White House hasn’t issued any true directive other than Trump’s tweets, which left — by some estimations — up to 15,000 transgender people in the military wondering what would happen to their careers after Trump’s tweets. And even though Sean Spicer once stated that the president’s Twitter-tantrums were “considered official statements,” U.S. military leaders aren’t budging until the Pentagon sees specific instructions to that effect.
Indeed, it’s a wonder that the tweets were issued without any sort of documentation of how the Trump administration wishes to implement such a directive. Was White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci too focused on giving leakers the smack down to care what Trump was about to tweet about transgender military policy, or did Scaramucci not even realize what was about to happen? We may never know.