Metro Weekly

Congressmen seek White House-Pentagon communications on trans military ban

Letter asks for "any and all" correspondence that informed President Trump's decision to push for a ban

The Pentagon. Photo: Department of Defense – Photo: Master Sgt. Ken Hammond, U.S. Air Force, via Wikimedia.

More than 100 members of Congress have written a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis asking him to provide copies of communications between the White House and the Pentagon that purportedly informed President Trump’s decision to pursue a ban on transgender service members in the U.S. military.

In the letter, the congressmen ask for “any and all” emails, letters, telephone transcripts, meeting logs and minutes, or other correspondence relating to the transgender ban and how the president reached a decision prior to tweeting his intentions.

“During a televised press conference on Thursday, August 10, 2017, President Trump said that he had been “doing the military a great favor” when he announced, via Twitter, that the government would not “accept or allow […] transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military,” the letter to Mattis reads. “We request information about what discussions or correspondence between the White House and the Pentagon, if any, led President Trump to make his assertion.

“If the Department has records of any other discussions that might have justified the president’s claim, we request to see those materials, as well.”

The letter was circulated by U.S. Rep. Don McEachin (D-Va.) and signed by a number of Democratic congressman, most of whom are on the liberal side of the ideological spectrum, including U.S. Reps. Ted Lieu (Calif.), Frank Pallone (N.J.), Val Demings (Fla.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Jamie Raskin (Md.), Don Beyer (Va.), Bobby Scott (Va.), Grace Meng (N.Y.), Linda Sanchez (Calif.), and Joaquin Castro (Texas).

Five of the six out LGBTQ House members — Reps. Mark Takano (Calif.), Jared Polis (Colo.), Mark Pocan (Wis.), Sean Patrick Maloney (N.Y.), and David Cicilline (R.I.) — also signed the letter.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, which have filed two of the four lawsuits currently lodged against the president’s ban, praised the letter’s signatories for their action. In a joint statement, the two organizations reiterated that the military, under the Obama administration, had previously studied the issue of allowing transgender individuals to serve openly, and found there was no reason to deny them the opportunity to serve.

“The President’s abrupt decision to override the military’s carefully considered policy on transgender service members showed a shocking disregard not only for the thousands of currently serving transgender troops, including those deployed overseas, but also for the experience and expertise of military leaders,” NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter and GLAD Transgender Rights Project Director Jennifer Levi said in the statement.

“The President’s blatant disregard for military judgment destabilizes military operations and weakens our Armed Forces,” they continued. “Every day this ban is allowed to stay in place, our national security is undermined and transgender service members who have proved their fitness to serve are being unfairly targeted and demeaned. That’s why we will continue to use every tool at our disposal to end this discriminatory and harmful ban.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com