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Trump signs new policy that would ban most trans troops

Four federal courts have temporarily blocked President Donald Trump’s ban on trans people in the military, which he issued last summer. On Friday night, the White House released a new, similar policy to bar people with a history of gender dysphoria from the military, with a few exceptions. BuzzFeed News Pentagon reporter Vera Bergengruen joins Hari Sreenivasan from Washington, D.C., for more.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    President Trump followed up on his plan to ban transgender members of the U.S. military with a memo issued late on Friday night. It says troops with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria could only serve under "limited circumstances." Four federal courts already issued injunctions, at least temporarily halting President Trump's original ban from last year. All of this is raising questions for trans people who are already in the ranks or hoping to enlist. Vera Bergengruen is a Pentagon reporter for BuzzFeed News. She joins me now via Skype from Washington D.C.. First, you know, this is like a classic Friday night news dump. Something very important, very late on Friday night. Who does it affect?

  • VERA BERGENGRUEN:

    That's the thing. It was news dump and it took a long time for legal and military experts to even understand who it's going to affect. And it's still rather unclear because a lot of people who came out openly as transgender under the Obama administration's policy in 2016 are going to be able to stay according to the new policy and kind of be grandfathered in. But anyone who has gone undergone gender reassignment surgery is going to be impacted by this. They are now disqualified from serving in the military. And there are some exceptions to that but it's honestly still very unclear. A lot of these lawyers and people who are involved in these law suits are kind of trying to dig through it and figure out exactly who falls under these exceptions.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    How big is the population of gender people who are serving in the military or perhaps just being recruited?

  • VERA BERGENGRUEN:

    Right now it's under dispute because this is really something that is quite recorded. This study commissioned by the Pentagon in 2016 put the number between 1,300 and 6,000. And some people say it's as high as 14,000. But of course not all of those have undergone gender reassignment surgery so it's kind of a blurry line there.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    You know the president's or at least General Mattis' argument is this is decreasing military effectiveness and lethality. There have been studies that have taken a look at this. Where does this fall?

  • VERA BERGENGRUEN:

    Well, the Pentagon has not commissioned a study in 2016 and I spoke to the authors of that study with the RAND Corporation who said that they looked at every available data points they looked at foreign militaries who have transgender service members and their conclusion after an entire year was that it would have very, very limited impact on the military and on health care costs which is something that the president pointed out when he decided to ban transgender service members. So what Mattis said in this filing on Friday, he said that the study was faulty that the foreign military didn't have the same requirements for their troops and that they were using data collected by the Pentagon since the Obama era regulation was put into effect. So basically they're saying that the study that Obama law was based on was not good, it was faulty.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right. On the one hand there's the presidential policy that the courts have stepped in against and issued injunctions and this is now the Pentagon policy. Does this mean more lawsuits or is this something distinct?

  • VERA BERGENGRUEN:

    Probably means more lawsuits. It's again, a little unclear whether this new policy because it is a new one, kind of gets rid of the old lawsuits and puts new in…But yeah it definitely will mean more lawsuits. And what the president basically did is he canceled his original ban, a full band and said I'm deferring to Mattis, I am deferring to the military. And the military basically recommended this new ban a with a few exceptions.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right we're virgins one Pentagon reporter for BuzzFeed joining us via Skype from Washington. Thanks so much.

  • VERA BERGENGRUEN:

    Thank you.

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