Dishonoring their service
On July 4, President Donald Trump stood on the White House’s Truman Balcony and made a promise to the armed forces as service members gathered with families for a picnic on the South Lawn:
“I will always have your back. I will always, under all circumstances.”
Turns out there’s an exception: those who are transgender.
Trump tweeted a decision that “the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”
That would seem to shut out openly transgender recruits. But what about the thousands already serving — some in war zones?
They’re asking, but no one can tell them. Trump hasn’t worked that part of it out yet. The Pentagon and congressional armed services committees were caught off guard by Trump’s announcement.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the Pentagon and White House will work out the details. See Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday.
‘Costs and disruption’
Trump’s tweet said he concluded after consulting “my Generals and military experts” that the armed forces “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
A Pentagon-commissioned study last year estimated the potential cost of gender-transition medical treatment for active duty service members could range from $2.4 million to $8.4 million annually — 0.13% of the total $6.2 billion in military health care spending.
Trump’s decision pre-empted an ongoing Defense Department review on how transgender recruits would affect the military’s effectiveness. While social conservatives applauded Trump’s decision, other Republicans were critical.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called it “yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter” and added, “There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train and deploy to leave the military — regardless of their gender identity.”
It’s about the wall?
Trump made the move to placate a House GOP faction that was threatening to block a spending bill that included money to start building a wall on the Mexican border, Politico reported.
The group’s objective was narrower — to prohibit funding for gender-reassignment surgery. They weren’t seeking a transgender ban.
“This is like someone told the White House to light a candle on the table and the WH set the whole table on fire,” a senior House Republican aide told the website.
Sanders: Sessions down, not out
Is Trump’s verbal and Twitter torture of Attorney General Jeff Sessions just an excruciating public performance review — not a daily series of humiliations to get him to resign? That’s what Sanders seemed to suggest at Wednesday’s briefing.
“He’s obviously disappointed but also wants the attorney general to continue to focus on the things that the attorney general does,” Sanders said — to lead the Justice Department “strongly” and “focus on things like immigration, leaks and a number of other issues.”
Sessions plans soon to announce an investigation into leaks, which has been one of Trump’s complaints, according to White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci. But the attorney general can’t un-recuse himself in the Russia investigation, the biggest reason for the Trump rages.
Et tu, Mooch?
Scaramucci told Fox News his threats to fire leakers and Trump’s Twitter rants are a product of their New York directness — a contrast to Washington backstabbing.
“I’m more of a front-stabbing person,” Scaramucci said.
As for a Trump tweet slamming Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski for breaking with Senate Republicans on a health care vote, “That’s a classic New Yorker, letting you know exactly how you feel,” Scaramucci said. “Now that senator knows how the president feels about her.”
Scaramucci also boasted, “I have the stomach and the backbone to fire you.” Trump, despite his “You’re fired!” performances on “The Apprentice,” avoids doing that face-to-face as president, according to a Washington Post story.
Hazardous to their health
It sounded more inside-the-Belt Parkway than inside-the-Beltway when Scaramucci faced off with CNN anchor Chris Cuomo of the Queens Cuomos.
Cuomo sought a direct answer from the Port Washington-raised Scaramucci on whether Trump had ordered the firing of a press office employee. Scaramucci said he wouldn’t answer because he chose to be “subtle.”
“You’re as subtle as a heart attack. You report directly to the president,” Cuomo shot back.
“Just remember what [former New York Mayor Ed] Koch said, I’m going to give you the heart attack, Chris. You’re not going to give the heart attack,” said Scaramucci. (Koch actually said he gave ulcers instead of getting them.)
More from Scaramucci: “What’s funny about you was when I tease you, you’re very upset.” Cuomo’s comeback: “I’m never upset. I’ve got a big smile on my face. “
What else is happening
- Senate Republican leaders failed to win passage of a bill to repeal Obamacare with a delayed replacement, reports Newsday’s Tom Brune. Alaska’s Murkowski, unmoved by Trump’s tweet, was one of the no votes.
- Trump announced that Taiwan-based electronics giant Foxconn will build a $10 billion factory in Wisconsin that’s expected to create 3,000 jobs.
- Departing White House press secretary Sean Spicer may be offered a gig on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” Politico reports.
- Long Island LGBT advocates protested Trump’s decision to ban transgender people from the military, reports Newsday’s Victor Manuel Ramos.
- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, visiting Washington, urged Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao to commit the Trump administration to help fund a new rail tunnel to New Jersey, Newsday’s Michael Gormley reports.
- Some Trump fans will be disappointed, but Suffolk GOP chairman John Jay LaValle told party members that the audience for the president’s visit to Suffolk County Friday is limited to law enforcement officials, Newsday’s Rick Brand reports.