When President Trump sent out a series of three tweets Wednesday morning announcing a total ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military "in any capacity," his posts published at a halting pace. Fully nine minutes elapsed between the vague first tweet and the second, in which Trump got to the meat of his statement. In that gap, BuzzFeed News reports, many at the Pentagon were on tenterhooks:
At the Pentagon, the first of the three tweets raised fears that the president was getting ready to announce strikes on North Korea or some other military action. Many said they were left in suspense for nine minutes, the time between the first and second tweet. Only after the second tweet did military officials receive the news the president was announcing a personnel change on Twitter. [BuzzFeed]
The announcement came as a surprise for congressional Republicans, too. Politico's behind-the-scenes look at the president's decision to send the tweets described it as Trump's impulsive attempt to salvage "a spending bill stacked with his campaign promises, including money to build his border wall with Mexico" that risked being derailed over federal funding for gender reassignment surgeries for military staff.
Trump's outright ban went well beyond what House Republicans were debating, which never involved expelling all transgender soldiers. In the words of an unnamed senior House GOP aide, "This is like someone told the White House to light a candle on the table and the WH set the whole table on fire."
Within the White House, chief strategist Stephen Bannon reportedly "encouraged Trump to deal with the matter now," while Defense Secretary James Mattis urged caution and research before upending prior policy that could affect between 2,500 and 15,000 active-duty troops. Read Politico's full inside scoop here.