Former Secretary of Defense William Cohen said Friday that a Twitter announcement of the type President Donald Trump made this week banning transgender individuals from serving in the U.S. military would have been enough for him to consider resigning.
"I would have called the president, asked for a meeting with the president, and [said] ‘Mr. President, before you ever make a Tweet or send a Tweet or make a decision without consulting me, then you’ll find a new Secretary of Defense,’” Cohen, a former Republican senator who served as defense secretary under former President Bill Clinton, told SiriusXM’s “Joe Madison Show" on Friday. “You get to do it once, but you try it again and I’ll be out of here."
Trump’s announcement this week that “the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,” appeared to catch both the Department of Defense and the armed services committees on Capitol Hill flat-footed, although the president wrote online that he had made the decision “after consultation with my Generals and military experts.”
Hours after Trump made his announcement on Twitter, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was unable to offer specifics of how the new policy would be implemented and what the announcement meant for transgender troops currently serving, who have been allowed to do so openly since an announcement from then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter last summer.
In the hours after Trump’s announcement, the Pentagon referred all questions on the new policy to the White House. In the days since, the Defense Department has said it has not received a formal policy directive from the White House and as such it has not taken any steps to implement the president’s announced policy.
Sanders told reporters in the wake of Trump’s announcement that the president had informed Defense Secretary James Mattis one day prior to tweeting the policy shift. Cohen suggested that Mattis, whose department announced last month that it would wait an additional six months before allowing new transgender recruits to enter the military in order to review the policy, was not adequately consulted and that Trump should have allowed the review to play out.
“We’ve been through this before. We’ve been through it with black people, for sure, we’ve been through it with gay people, and now we’re doing it with transgender people,” Cohen said. “Let’s find out — can we can carry out the mission that American people want? And if we can’t, that’s one thing. But don’t go around me again unless you want to have a different Secretary of Defense.”