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White House struggles to defend Trump's ban on transgender troops

Donald Trump's new ban on transgender troops sits at the intersection of discrimination and incompetence.
Image: Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Anthony Scaramucci
Anthony Scaramucci, incoming White House communications director, left, follows new White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders into the briefing room...

By some accounts, White House officials actually thought Donald Trump's new ban on transgender troops would be a political winner for them.

That, of course, was before the policy was denounced by members of Congress from both parties. And before the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs said they hadn't been notified of the change. And before veterans' organizations denounced the pointless discrimination against active-duty soldiers.

But perhaps the most amazing moment in the rollout of Trump's ridiculous new rules came during Sarah Huckabee Sanders' press briefing yesterday, when the president's principal spokesperson struggled to explain what the policy was and how it would work -- because she simply did not know.

A reporter asked whether transgender Americans already in uniform would be kicked out of the military. Sanders didn't know. Another asked, "How does it maintain or improve unit cohesion to leave thousands of servicemembers, some who may be overseas, serving in units overseas, in the dark about their status within the military?" Sanders couldn't answer that, either.

As the questions continued, the White House press secretary threatened to simply walk away from the podium unless reporters changed the subject.

"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."

Ordinarily, when a White House unveils a new policy, affecting thousands of Americans, there are more than just a few tweets on the subject. There's supposed to be a briefing on the details of the policy, along with some background materials, and often an opportunity to hear from relevant officials within the executive branch.

But in Trump World, everything is ... different.

The president fired off a few online missives, and the White House, apparently in the dark about its own new policy, couldn't answer substantive questions about the policy. Indeed, in this case, Sanders couldn't even refer reporters to the Pentagon for additional information about the implementation of the policy because Team Trump didn't bother to brief Defense Department officials, either.

Trump's new ban sits at the intersection of discrimination and incompetence.

Towards the end of the unsatisfying briefing, the White House press secretary told reporters, "I think the president has made very clear he's committed to fighting for all Americans." That's a plainly foolish thing to say just hours after the president announced a new plan to discriminate against transgender Americans, but it's also rather ironic: those men and women in uniform, who are now facing the threat of being discharged, are actually committed to fighting for all Americans.

Trump, regrettably, seems principally focused on fighting for himself.