A judge has ordered President Donald Trump to release the names of officials who advised on his failed ban on transgender military service.
U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman issued an order on Thursday giving the federal government a hard deadline of 8pm ET to turn over the information, as the Washington Blade reports. The Trump administration had initially claimed it did not have to comply with Pechman’s edict due to “executive privilege,” but the justice rejected that assertion.
“The court cannot rule on a ‘potential’ privilege, particularly where the allegedly privileged information is unidentified,” Pechman wrote in a three-page court order.
“In order to assert privilege,” she continued, “a party must ‘expressly make the claim’ and ‘describe the nature of the documents, communications, or tangible things not produced or disclosedand do so in a manner that, without revealing information itself privileged or protected, will enable other parties to assess the claim.’”
The Washington state justice added that the documents thus far provided by the administration are “clearly inadequate. “
“Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(1), initial disclosures must identify ‘each individual likely to have discoverable informationalong with the subjects of that informationthat the disclosing party may use to support its claims or defenses’ as well as “all documents, electronically stored information, and tangible things that the disclosing party has in its possession, custody, or control and may use to support its claims or defenses,” she wrote.
The White House has not said whether it will comply with the judge’s demands or whether it will continue to appeal the ruling.
Should the Trump administration reveal the information, it’s likely to further erode the credibility of a policy which has come under intense scrutiny since it was first announced in July 2017.
Previous reports have indicated top officials, including Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford, were not consulted in the president’s plan. Mattis is alleged to have been on vacation when Trump pledged via a 6am tweetstorm that transgender individuals would not be permitted to “serve in any capacity” in the U.S. armed forces.
In Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury, the author claimed the POTUS only considered the proposal for 10 minutes before posting it to social media.
Although the president did not discuss his plans with military personnel, the New York Times claims Family Research Council President Tony Perkins met with Trump to discuss blocking trans military service just days before the decision was made public. Perkins would go onto praise the policy as reversing the “social experimentation of the Obama era that has crippled our nation’s military.”
Should the administration release the documents Pechman requested, it may provide greater insight to how much of a role Perkins played in the ban.
That policy, however, was overturned following a series of federal court rulings, after judges argued there was no evidence to support the Oval Office’s claims that trans military service would result in “tremendous medical costs and disruption.”
In an October ruling overturning the ban, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly came to the exact opposite conclusion: prohibiting trans people from joining the military and deploying troops already serving would create the harm the administration says it’s attempting to avoid. “[T]here is considerable evidence that it is the discharge and banning of such individuals that would have such effects,” Kollar-Kotelly wrote.
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