President Trump surprised the nation on the morning of July 26 when he announced on Twitter he was banning transgender people from serving "in any capacity" in the military. He wrote that the armed forces "cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail."
The tweets alarmed transgender troops around the country, who'd been blindsided by the news, and the tweets themselves quickly became central to several lawsuits. The troops argued Trump's tweets, and his memorandum to the Pentagon one month later, violated their constitutional rights to due process and failed to follow proper rulemaking procedures.
A federal judge in Washington, DC, agreed with the troops in October, halting most of Trump's ban. Then on Tuesday, another federal judge in a parallel lawsuit in Maryland halted Trump's policy completely.
US District Court Judge Marvin J. Garbis took particular aim at Trump's tweets in a 53-page ruling.
He started by screen-grabbing them.
Then Judge Garbis said the tweets weren't based on a policy review and aren’t motivated by a concern for a stronger military or in a national interest.
"President Trump’s tweets did not emerge from a policy review, nor did the Presidential Memorandum identify any policymaking process or evidence demonstrating that the revocation of transgender rights was necessary for any legitimate national interest," the judge wrote. "Based on the circumstances surrounding the President’s announcement and the departure from normal procedure, the Court agrees with the D.C. Court that there is sufficient support for Plaintiffs’ claims that 'the decision to exclude transgender individuals was not driven by genuine concerns regarding military efficacy.'"
The judge also affirmed allegations that the tweets may be "shocking."
"An unexpected announcement by the President and Commander in Chief of the United States via Twitter that 'the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military' certainly can be considered shocking under the circumstances," the decision continued.
Media reports from the summer also said Trump's tweets surprised US generals.
The judge went on to say Trump’s tweets didn’t show the president reviewed the issue with military officials.
In 2016, after a year of studying the issue, Pentagon officials in the Obama administration had concluded transgender troops would not burden the military, and established rules to let them serve openly.
Trump reversing that 2016 rule with a tweet concerned the judge, who wrote on Tuesday, "A capricious, arbitrary, and unqualified tweet of new policy does not trump the methodical and systematic review by military stakeholders qualified to understand the ramifications of policy changes."
Josh Block, a staff attorney representing troops in the case of Stone v. Trump, told BuzzFeed News the judge was referring to legal terms about the decision being arbitrary and shocking. "What is so extraordinary about this situation is that you had a detailed, year-long review that was then, on the spur of the moment, negated by a tweet out of nowhere that shocked Trump's own generals," he said.
"It's not the judge that connected this to Twitter," Block added. "It was Trump who decided that this could be announced by a tweet."
Dominic Holden is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Dominic Holden at email@example.com.
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