The White House currently has no plan for what to do with active service members who are transgender, a stunning admission after President Donald Trump tweeted hours earlier that he would ban any transgender person from the armed forces.
The decision could impact thousands of people likely based around the world. There are estimates that up to 15,000 service members are transgender.
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the White House would work with the Department of Defense as "implementation takes place and is done so lawfully" — but did not provide details or a timeline.
Sanders also seemed to illustrate a disconnect between Trump's national security team — who she said agreed with Trump's position — and military leaders, many of whom have balked at limiting who can serve in the military in the past.
"Based on consultation that he's had with his national security team," Sanders said, Trump "came to the conclusion that it erodes military readiness and unit cohesion and made the decision based on that."
After he made the decision, Sanders said, "the secretary of defense was immediately informed."
When asked if transgender service members in Afghanistan would be sent home because of Trump's new policy, Sanders referred reporters to the Department of Defense.
"Look, I think sometimes you have to make decisions and once [the president] made a decision, he didn't feel it was necessary to hold that decision," Sanders said when asked why the White House didn't have an answer about active-duty service members.
The Department of Defense has previously referred BuzzFeed News to the White House for questions about the decision's impact.
Sanders also said the "decision is based on a military decision," seemingly contradicting her statement that it was a decision by Trump alone, in consultation with his national security team. Trump also tweeted he conferred with "my Generals and military experts."
"And it's simply about, obviously, it's a very difficult decision. It's not a simple one. But the president feels that it's the best one for the military," she said.
Sanders also threatened to end the press briefing early when reporters asked follow-up questions about the ban.
"As I've said before, and I'll try to make this clear, this was a military decision," she said. "This was about military readiness. This is about unit cohesion. This was about resources within the military and nothing more. Guys, I really don't have anything else to add on that topic. As I do, I'll keep you posted. But if those are the only questions we have, I'm going to call it a day."
Ellie Hall is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. Her secure PGP fingerprint is 6055 A264 DADD AADC 347E 5986 547C C11C DD7D 176A.
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