The Department of Justice on Thursday refused to comply with a court order requiring the disclosure off the military experts Donald Trump claims he consulted before announcing his widely-criticized ban on transgender service members.
In a filing signed by Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division Chad Readler and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brett Shumate, the Department of Justice “respectfully disagreed” with an order to turn over the names of military experts the president said he spoke with before enacting the ban.
In a series of tweets last July, the president announced “after consultation with my Generals and military experts … 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,” the president wrote on Twitter. “Thank you”
The LGBT military groups OutServe-SLDN and American Military Partner Association, along with Lambda Legal and the Human Rights Campaign, sued the Trump administration over the decision. As part of that lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman ordered the release of the names of individuals Trump claimed to have spoken with. Several military leaders, including Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford, have said they were “not consulted” by the president.
In the filing, Trump’s Department of Justice claimed executive privilege in refusing to disclose the president’s confidants.
“Defendants respectfully disagree and adhere to their position that judicial deference to executive decisions about the composition of the military is not dependent upon judicial review of the deliberative process that preceded the decisions at issue,” the filing reads. “In addition, defendants do not waive any executive privileges simply by arguing for judicial deference to the President’s military decisions.”
The deadline for the Justice Department to release those names passed at 8 p.m. Thursday.
Lambda Legal counsel Tara Borelli called the Justice Department’s filing “more proof that when it comes to justifying this ban, the government doesn’t have the goods.”
“The government has said that it simply will not provide information about the process that led to the president’s twitter ban,” Borelli said. “As the government well understands, this means that it will not be able to rely on that information to help defend the ban, which exposes a fatal flaw in their position: There is no justification for this discrimination. The government isn’t willing to pull back the curtain, because there’s nothing behind it.”
This is just one legal battle the Trump administration has to fight thanks to the president’s transgender ban.
In a ruling last November, U.S. District Judge Marvin Garbis issued a preliminary injunction that also prevented the Trump administration from refusing to fund sex-reassignment surgery. In his ruling, Garbis said the president’s “tweets did not emerge from a policy review” but was instead a “capricious, arbitrary and unqualified” decision.