President Trump went with the nuclear alienation decision to ban all transgender people from the military.
Mr. Trump abruptly announced a ban on transgender people serving in the military on Wednesday, blindsiding his defense secretary and Republican congressional leaders with a snap decision that reversed a year-old policy reviled by social conservatives.
Mr. Trump made the surprise declaration on Twitter, saying that American forces could not afford the “tremendous medical costs and disruption” of transgender service members. He said he had consulted generals and military experts, but Jim Mattis, the defense secretary, was given only a day’s notice about the decision.
Mr. Trump elected to announce the ban in order to resolve a quietly brewing fight on Capitol Hill over whether taxpayer money should pay for gender transition and hormone therapy for transgender service members, which had threatened to kill a $790 billion defense and security spending package scheduled for a vote this week.
But rather than addressing that narrow issue, Mr. Trump opted to upend the entire policy on transgender service members, a move that few on Capitol Hill or at the Pentagon expected.
Mr. Trump announced the decision with such haste that the White House could not answer basic inquiries about how it would be carried out, including what would happen to openly transgender people now serving on active duty; of eight defense officials interviewed, none could say.
The ban would reverse the gradual transformation of the military under President Barack Obama, whose administration announced last year that transgender people could serve openly in the military. Mr. Obama’s defense secretary, Ashton B. Carter, also opened all combat roles to women and appointed the first openly gay Army secretary.
Mr. Mattis, who was on vacation, was silent on the new policy. People close to the defense secretary said he was appalled that Mr. Trump chose to unveil his decision in tweets, in part because of the message they sent to transgender active-duty service members, including those deployed overseas, that they were suddenly no longer welcome.
Lt. Commander Blake Dremann, a Navy supply corps officer who is transgender, said he found out his job was in danger when he turned on CNN on Wednesday morning. Commander Dremann came out as transgender to his commanders in 2015, and said they had been supportive of him.
He refused to criticize Mr. Trump — “we don’t criticize our commander in chief,” he said — but said the policy shift “is singling out a specific population in the military, who had been assured we were doing everything appropriate to continue our honorable service.”
He added: “And I will continue to do so, until the military tells me to hang up my boots.”