Former Defense chief: I would have threatened to resign over Trump's transgender ban

Former Defense chief: I would have threatened to resign over Trump's transgender ban

A former secretary of Defense on Friday blasted President Trump for his ban on transgender Americans serving in the armed forces and said that he would have threatened to resign over the order.

Former President Clinton Secretary of Defense William Cohen, who previously served as a Republican House lawmaker from Maine, told Sirius XM's "The Joe Madison Show" that Trump abused his power as president when he went around his Defense secretary, James Mattis.

"If you were the secretary of Defense and that tweet came out, what would you have done the next morning — or the next day?" host Joe Madison asked Cohen.

"I would have called the president, asked for a meeting with the president," Cohen responded. "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."

"I'd say, 'You get to do it once, but you try it again and I'll be out of here,' " he added.


On Wednesday morning, Trump wrote on Twitter that “after consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military."

The move apparently blindsided Mattis, who was on vacation at the time and was only given one day's notice of the new policy.

Cohen accused Trump of ignoring Mattis's requests for more time to study the issue of whether transgender soldiers would be an "impediment" to the military's objectives.

"You cannot circumvent the secretary of Defense and make policy decisions without saying, 'Secretary Mattis, what do you think?' " Cohen said. "But tell me, what are they doing now, and if it's an impediment to their carrying out the mission, if their presence is an impediment that is so disruptive they can't carry out the mission, then tell me that."

"Which is exactly why Secretary Mattis said: 'Give me six months to study this. I need to find out what the benefits and the cost are of this,' " he added.

Cohen likened Trump's decision to previous policies barring African-Americans and openly gay Americans from serving in the armed forces.

"We've been through this before," Cohen argued. "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."

The former secretary's views are likely shared by Mattis. The Washington Post reported that sources close to Trump's Defense chief said Mattis was appalled by Trump's tweets announcing the policy. On Thursday, the Joint Chiefs of Staff signaled that no changes would be made until the White House issued further guidance.

“There will be no modifications to the current policy until the president’s direction has been received by the secretary of defense and the secretary has issued implementation guidance,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford wrote.