As the Pentagon continues to allow transgender people to serve despite President Trump’s announcement he’ll ban them from the U.S. military, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway refused to say Sunday whether senior defense officials signed off on the policy before the president’s proclamation.
Conway dodged on the issue during an appearance on ABC News’ “This Week” when pressed by host George Stephanopoulos on which generals and military experts signed off on the proposed ban.
“First of all, the tweet didn’t make policy, the tweet announced policy,” Conway said. “This had been a conversation, discussions had with generals and other stakeholders for a very long time. The president announced it through the form that he does that cuts out the middle man.”
Stephanopoulos noted the widely held belief Defense Secretary James Mattis was “apparently blindsided” by the Twitter announcement, although the White House has insisted the defense secretary was notified the night before it came.
Asked for specifics on which generals agreed to it, Conway spoke generally about talks with generals and other stakeholders, but again dodged.
“And the fact is the Pentagon is a big place,” Conway said. “If you find five or 10 people who say, we had no idea, 100 people say we had no idea, that doesn’t mean that everybody there who needed to know.”
Conway insisted the next step in the process is the creation of policy guidance to implement Trump’s transgender military ban, which she said would be made in consultation with defense leaders.
“The next steps…are to have policy guidance and to put the order out and to work with the stakeholders, obviously Gen. Mattis…to implement this new policy,” Conway said.
The Los Angeles Blade reported last week, citing anonymous sources, a version of the guidance was approved by the White House general counsel and delivered to the Pentagon. A Defense Department spokesperson said the Pentagon is still awaiting the guidance.
When asked point blank if Mattis and other senior defense officials signed off on the policy, Conway said she was familiar with talks leading to the policy change, but professed to have no knowledge on whether defense officials agreed with it.
“I can’t answer that because I wasn’t in the room when they discussed it with him,” Conway said. “And I certainly aren’t on the National Security Council. But I will tell you, having spoken with the president directly about this and having been involved a little bit in the discussions that the president had consulted for quite a while with different stakeholders, including his generals.”
Meanwhile, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford has said the military will have “no modifications” to transgender service until further White House guidance. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft has said he’d “keep the faith” with transgender people in his service.
Conway concluded by saying former President Obama “took late in the game action” on transgender military service, referencing his administration’s actions in his final year in office to lift an earlier, longstanding ban prohibiting transgender people from serving.
“Everybody runs around acting like he had a particular policy for all eight years,” Conway said. “He did not. And you know that. He took late in the game action.”
Conway then credited Trump for taking action on the issue in the early part of his administration, even though his action was the opposite of Obama’s and seeks to restrict transgender service rather than enable it.
“The president is now acting early in his administration because he believes in military readiness and he believes in unit cohesion,” Conway said. “This is what he has said. This is what others have said…but the policy guidance and the exact order and the final configuration of the law obviously are forthcoming.”
Watch video here courtesy Globalization News. (Remarks on transgender service begin at 17:30).