ANALYSIS: No one saw Trump’s transgender military ban coming

It’s hard to overstate the enormity of President Donald Trump‘s decision today to ban transgender people from military service.

Not only does it deal a lasting blow to President Barack Obama’s legacy of reversing discrimination within the Armed Forces, but it raises so many questions about how and why Trump chose to do this.

For instance: By all accounts, this announcement took everyone in Washington, D.C., by surprise. Neither the Pentagon nor the White House communications staff nor Congress were in any way prepared to answer questions about this. They clearly did not see it coming.

Last anyone heard about the issue was on June 30, when Defense Secretary James Mattis announced he was still reviewing the Obama-era policy that allowed transgender people to join the military (about a year ago Obama’s defense secretary said no longer would the military treat “gender dysphoria” as a medical condition that precluded individuals from service). Mattis said then that he was giving his people until December to produce a report on the matter. There is no indication Trump had that review before he tweeted out his announcement this morning.

We also know there was a debate earlier this month in Congress about an amendment that would make it illegal for the military to pay for gender reassignment surgery. That amendment, thanks to many Republicans, failed. But that amendment wasn’t a call to ban all transgender persons, it just maintained that the military shouldn’t pay for related surgeries.

However, unless and until the White House or the Pentagon clarify — which so far they haven’t — there is no other way to interpret Trump’s statement today other than an absolute ban on transgender service.

Here’s what he tweeted in full:

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