On the first White House news briefing after President Trump reaffirmed his ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military, White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah declined to address the issue, nor did any reporters from mainstream media outlets ask about it as part of their questioning.
The main focus from reporters on Monday during the 20-minute briefing, characteristically abbreviated for the Trump White House, was instead the “60 Minutes” interview Sunday night with porn star Stormy Daniels and the details she revealed about her alleged sexual affair with Trump. Other questions were about the U.S. expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats as a result of Russia’s apparent use of a military-grade chemical weapon in the United Kingdom, which killed a former Russian spy.
The Washington Blade was seated in the third row and had a hand up during the briefing, but Shah declined to recognize the LGBT outlet for a question. At one point, Shah looked directly at the Blade, but skipped the publication for another reporter. That’s consistent with the Trump White House record of virtually ignoring the Blade during the White House briefings.
Had the Blade been called on during the briefing, the LGBT outlet would have asked about the transgender military ban, which was made public late Friday night just as the weekend started at a time when media coverage was limited and the White House wasn’t taking questions on the issue.
At the close of the briefing, another non-mainstream media standing in the aisle sought comment from Shah on the transgender military ban by shouting out an inquiry. Shah looked at the reporter as he exited the briefing, but had no response.
The Blade followed up with Shah after the briefing by submitting two questions via email to him and other staffers in the White House.
Here are the questions:
1. Did the president, Vice President or anyone at the White House seek to influence the findings in the report from Secretary Mattis made public Friday?
2. Multiple courts have ruled prohibiting transgender service is unconstitutional. Isn’t the policy a non-starter?
Trump announced he’d keep his ban on transgender service in the military following a report signed by Defense Secretary James Mattis recommending limited access to transgender people in the armed forces. The expectation is the policy will be unenforceable because six courts — four trial courts and two circuit courts — have determined barring transgender people from the U.S. military is likely unconstitutional.