President Donald Trump said that he consulted "my generals" before announcing via tweet last July a ban on transgender individuals serving in the military, but a new batch of internal emails reinforced the view that the Pentagon was blindsided.
"Everyone was caught flat-footed," Air Force Brig. Gen. Kyle Kremer, director of manpower and personnel for the Joint Chiefs, wrote to Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford and Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman, following Trump's July 26, 2017, series of tweets.
The emails, many of them heavily redacted, were obtained under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the liberal watchdog group American Oversight and were the subject of a report Friday by BuzzFeed News.
"Wow -- that was a surprise," Anthony Kurta, who was then performing the duties of undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, wrote to another Pentagon official whose name was redacted, BuzzFeed reported.
In a series of July 2017 tweets, Trump wrote, "After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military."
"Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail," he continued.
It was widely reported at the time that Trump's tweets caught the Pentagon's top brass by surprise, but the new batch of internal emails gives a glimpse of the panic and confusion among the staff.
The internal emails show that an aide to Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, the No. 2 at the Pentagon, tried to give him a heads-up on the Trump tweets as he was on his way to Capitol Hill to testify at a hearing. The aide warned him that the tweets would likely be of "high interest" to members of Congress questioning him.
In a separate email obtained by BuzzFeed in February, Dunford told the service chiefs that he had no forewarning of Trump's proposed ban. "The announcement was unexpected," he wrote, and "when asked, I will state that I was not consulted."
The proposed ban has since been blocked in four federal courts by separate lawsuits filed by advocacy groups.
In a statement on the new batch of emails, Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of the American Military Partner Association, said the emails showed that Trump's tweets "were as shocking and surprising to the Pentagon as they were to the rest of us. Despite what the White House claimed, there was no input from the military's senior leadership."
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.