DOD Records Regarding Trump’s Tweet Banning Transgender Military Servicemembers

Department of Defense records regarding President Donald Trump’s tweets on July 26, 2017, announcing that transgender persons were no longer permitted to serve in the military. Records, including communications between 8:55 a.m. and 12 p.m. that day suggest that the Defense Department was caught off-guard by the policy statement of the president.

In these records

Pages 2–3: On July 26, 2017, at 9:15 a.m., Deputy Secretary of Defense spokesperson Sarah Higgins sent an email to a list called “SD – DepSecDef SAs & MAs.” Referring to screenshots taken of Trump’s tweets announcing a blanket ban on trangender service members in the military, Higgins said, “This will be the news of day. Barbara Starr already on CNN reporting. Anticipate high interest on Hill for DSD today.”

At the same time, Gregory Hicks, the special assistant for public affairs for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, emailed Gen. Joseph Dunford and Gen. Paul Selva that the president had tweeted an announcement about a transgender ban. Rear Adm. Michael Dumont and two Pentagon email lists were copied. Hicks wrote: “CNN is covering live and the Pentagon Press Corps is looking for comment from OSD PA [Public Affairs]. We will defer all press to OSD PA.”

Page 4: Brig. Gen. Kyle Kremer replied to Hicks’ email chain, “Everyone was caught flat-footed” by Trump’s Twitter announcement. 

Page 8Craig Greene, a staff member of the House Armed Services Committee, emailed Anthony Kurta, the acting under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, at 9:43 a.m. Green congratulated Kurta for his recent nomination, and asked for information about the ban: “I’m going to get pummeled by offices today, can you shed some light on this?” 

Kurta responded that he was on leave in Montana and could not provide any answers regarding Trump’s tweets. “I know you will be asked many questions, but we don’t have any further info at this point. That is all I have for now.”

Page 15: At 9:30 a.m., an unidentified individual with the title associate deputy general counsel emailed Deputy General Counsels Paul Koffsky, John Casciotti, and Dwight Sullivan. Referring to Trump’s tweet, the unidentified individual wrote, “Standing by for further guidance and/or instruction, particularly WRT the working group.”

Page 31: An unidentified individual at the Navy Office of Information relayed a statement from the Office of the Secretary of Defense to Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Robert Woods: “We refer all questions about the President’s statements to the White House. We will continue to work closely with the White House to address the new guidance provided by the Commander-in-Chief on transgender individuals serving the military. We will provide revised guidance to the Department in the near future.”

Page 43: At 9:36 a.m., Kurta sent an email with the subject line “Ban on TG in Military” to an unidentified person and wrote: “Wow – that was a surprise.”