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Trump, on Twitter, announced a ban on transgender service members. Now the military has to figure out what he means

 (Alex Brandon / Associated Press)
(Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

President Trump surprised even the Pentagon on Wednesday morning by his unexpected announcement, via Twitter, of a ban on transgender service members. 

The military has not had a chance to decide how to put such a ban into effect, acknowledged Trump's top spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, as she fielded numerous questions on the topic later from White House reporters.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who was on vacation, wasn't informed until Tuesday that Trump had decided to bar transgender service members from serving in any way. 

"Sometimes you have to make a decision and once he made a decision, he didn't feel it was necessary to hold that decision," Sanders said.

The president concluded, based on consultations with his national security team, that allowing transgender individuals to serve "erodes military readiness and unit cohesion," she said. 

White House and Pentagon officials had been discussing details of medical coverage for transgender service members on active duty. But Trump went far beyond that with his series of tweets that the military will "not accept or allow" transgender individuals to serve "in any capacity" in the military.

It will be up to the Defense Department to determine the specifics of the policy, including whether active-duty transgender service members will be kicked out of the military, Sanders said. Estimates of the number of current service members who are transgender range from 1,300 to about 16,000.

"The implementation policy is going to be something that the White House and Department of Defense will have to work together to lawfully determine," Sanders said. "I would imagine the Department of Defense will be the lead on that," she added.

Trump's tweets overshadowed other announcements he had planned to make Wednesday about adding manufacturing jobs to the economy and donating $100,000 of his second-quarter paycheck to the Department of Education to support science and math education.

"The president has expressed concerns since this Obama policy came into effect," Sanders said. She added that the president considered allowing transgender people in the ranks is "a very expensive and disruptive policy."

At one point, an exasperated Sanders said she would end the briefing if she continued to get questions on the issue.

Trump refused to answer a question about the transgender policy after he spoke in the afternoon to youths from the American Legion's Boys Nation and Auxiliary Girls Nation at the White House. “She’s very rude,” Trump said of the reporter who shouted the question.

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