The surprise move of the day: President Trump's seemingly out-of-nowhere tweets announcing transgender people would be banned from military service "in any capacity."
Axios' Jonathan Swan explains:
- "It's the most aggressive I've seen Trump wade into culture wars since becoming president — and perhaps his most polarizing decision since the original travel ban."
- "This issue had been quietly burning for months, with social conservative leaders pressing the White House on why it hadn't made a decision on this."
- In May, the Conservative Action Project released a memo calling for Trump to end the "social engineering" of permitting transgender people to serve and paying for gender re-assignment surgeries. Influential movement leaders had grown frustrated with the White House. They wondered what the heck was taking so long, and why Defense Secretary James Mattis was still studying the issue, and seemingly slow-walking instead of reversing the Obama-era policies.
- After an amendment to reverse those policies failed, House conservatives, especially Rep. Mark Meadows of the House Freedom Caucus, started threatening not to vote for the military appropriations bill unless the transgender issues were resolved.
- Internally, Mike Pence, Rick Dearborn, Marc Short, Steve Bannon and Paul Teller were pushing to overturn the Obama-era policy on transgender troops. Meadows' late intervention empowered Bannon and others to make the point to Trump that the security bill, which included Trump priorities like the border wall, could be derailed unless they handled this issue now.
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