President Trump said Thursday he’s “doing the military a great favor” by seeking to ban on transgender people from the armed forces, insisting he has “great support” from the LGBT community.
Trump made the remarks during an exchange with reporters at the Bedminster National Golf Club in New Jersey, where the president is staying during August vacation as the situation over North Korea’s improved nuclear weapons capabilities continues to escalate.
Asked by a reporter whether the transgender military ban, which Trump announced on Twitter last month, signified a betrayal of his promise to protect LGBT people during the presidential campaign, Trump replied, “No, no, no.”
“I have great respect for the community,” Trump said. “I think I’ve had great support, or I’ve had great support from that community. I got a lot of votes. But the transgender, the military’s working on it now. They’re doing the work.”
It’s unclear what Trump meant by saying he has support from the LGBT community. In the presidential election, LGBT voters rejected Trump by lopsided 4-1 margin, preferring Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Trump, who on Twitter made dubious claims transgender service would be costly and disruptive, said the military will benefit as a result of his plan to bar transgender people from the armed forces.
“It’s been a very difficult situation and I think I’m doing a lot of people a favor by coming out and just saying it,” Trump said. “As you know, it’s been a very complicated issue for the military, it’s been a very confusing issue for the military, and I think I’m doing the military a great favor.”
Trump’s decision to ban transgender service appears to override a ongoing review of the issue at the Pentagon, which Defense Secretary James Mattis has said in July would last six months. The general perception is the Pentagon was blindsided by Trump’s announcement, although the White House has said it gave Mattis a heads up the night before.
If Trump is doing anyone a favor, it might be anti-LGBT groups and lawmakers who threatened to withhold support for funding for his wall on the U.S.-Mexico border unless acted on transgender service. Transgender troops fearing discharge as a result of his announcement and LGBT rights supporters have expressed displeasure withe the policy change.
For the time being, transgender people are able to remain in the U.S. armed forces as a result of the Obama administration lifting an earlier ban on their service. The Pentagon has said there would be “no modification” to existing policy until further guidance from the White House.
The Los Angeles Blade reported last week that draft guidance that would ban transgender people from the U.S. military was approved by the White House general counsel. The Pentagon, however, has said it has yet to receive any instructions.
Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of the American Military Partner Association, said in a statement Trump’s remarks on banning transgender service are outrageous.
“President Trump’s shameful comments are an absolute insult to our nation’s armed forces and a slap in the face to the thousands of transgender service members who are willing to risk their lives every day for this country,” Broadway-Mack said. “Their selfless service and sacrifice for this nation is no ‘complicated issue.’ Military leadership and the far majority of Americans support all of our nation’s heroes, and President Trump should start doing the same.”