On July 26, 2017, then-President Donald Trump announced through a series of tweets that transgender individuals will no longer be allowed to serve in the U.S. military.
After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow……
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017
In announcing the ban, Trump claimed he was advised by “my generals,” but news reports indicated that the Pentagon was caught “off guard” by the tweets and was unprepared for the policy change — suggesting that the move was not in fact recommended by military leaders. American Oversight submitted subsequent FOIA requests seeking additional records from the Defense Department to determine if the White House and military personnel were aware of this policy decision before Trump’s tweets.
Emails uncovered by American Oversight in September 2018 showed that senior Pentagon leaders were unaware of the president’s announcement before it happened and, in the words of one top military official, “everyone was caught flat-footed.”
The full set of emails we obtained from the hours following Trump’s tweets are available online here.
American Oversight is continuing to investigate what the Defense Department knew before this policy change was revealed to the public. We submitted a FOIA request seeking all documents and communications related to this decision, including any analyses or recommendations from any military personnel provided to the White House that could have influenced the department’s policy regarding the service of transgender individuals in the U.S. military.
Despite surrounding legal battles, federal courts and the Pentagon subsequently stated that transgender individuals would be able to continue serving in the military and could enlist starting Jan. 1, 2018, but the White House and Justice Department fought to enforce the president’s original ban. In July 2018, the New York Times reported that while many transgender individuals had applied to serve in the military after the Pentagon confirmed it would accept applications, almost none these applications were being accepted. In April 2019, a modified version of Trump’s original blanket ban went into effect, blocking openly transgender individuals from joining the military and impacting the thousands of transgender troops currently serving. President Joe Biden reversed the ban on Jan. 25, 2021.