Trump Withholding Evidence for Military Trans Ban, Judge Says

(Bloomberg) -- A U.S. judge criticized the government’s continued refusal to turn over documents and communications about President Donald Trump’s stalled ban on transgender Americans in the military, saying the group of service members who sued are entitled to more information.

Trump tweeted in July 2017 that the ban had been carefully crafted in consultation with various generals and military experts as a means to reduce health-care costs for the military and improve morale. But the government has repeatedly cited presidential-communications privilege in refusing to hand over details about which generals and military experts Trump spoke with, and what they said. Plaintiffs doubt such discussions took place.

“Defendants have withheld nearly all information concerning this alleged deliberation,” U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in Washington said in a decision issued Friday. “This is not how civil litigation works.”

Without such evidence, neither the government nor the transgender service members who sued can get a ruling to resolve the case in their favor without a trial, Kollar-Kotelly said. The ban has been placed on hold in several courts, and an appeal is under way in California.

Earlier this month, the same judge denied the Trump administration’s request to throw the case out on the grounds that the ban was tweaked in February by Defense Secretary James Mattis to let transgender men and women serve if they do so “in their biological sex.”

Transgender service members, including some who’ve been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and others who aspire to serve, argue the ban violates their due process rights under the Constitution.

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