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Top general: Transgender troops shouldn't be separated from military

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Tuesday he has advised Trump administration officials that transgender troops should not be separated from the military.

Asked by Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandAffordable housing set for spotlight of next presidential campaign Overnight Defense — Presented by The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — Senators seek US intel on journalist's disappearance | Army discharged over 500 immigrant recruits in one year | Watchdog knocks admiral over handling of sexual harassment case Pentagon watchdog knocks top admiral for handling of sexual harassment case MORE (D-N.Y.) whether he agrees that currently serving transgender troops have served with “honor and valor,” Gen. Joseph Dunford replied, “I do.”

“I believe that any individual who meets the physical and mental standards and is worldwide deployable and is currently serving should be afforded the opportunity to continue to serve,” continued Dunford.

When asked by Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) whether he can promise that currently serving transgender troops will not be separated based solely on their gender identity, Dunford said that’s been his advice as the Pentagon reviews its transgender policy.

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“I can promise that that would be my advice,” he said. “What I just articulated is the advice I provided in private, and I’ve just provided in public.”

Dunford made the comments during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee to be confirmed for a second term as Joint Chiefs chairman.

Dunford was first nominated to be chairman by former President Obama in 2015. In May, President Trump nominated him for a second term.

In July, Trump announced on Twitter that he planned to ban all transgender military service, and in August he followed through by signing a presidential memo.

The memo prohibits the military from enlisting transgender people and from using funds to pay for gender transition-related surgery. It also gives Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Trump worries Saudi Arabia treated as 'guilty until proven innocent' | McConnell opens door to sanctions | Joint Chiefs chair to meet Saudi counterpart | Mattis says Trump backs him '100 percent' Joint Chiefs chairman to meet with Saudi counterpart Mattis says Trump backs him '100 percent' despite 'Democrat' remark MORE six months to determine what to do with transgender troops who are currently serving in the military.

Mattis said he would establish a panel of experts to determine how to implement Trump’s order and that currently serving transgender troops would not be separated from the military while that study is ongoing.

Gillibrand, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMcConnell: GOP could try to repeal ObamaCare again after midterms Comey donates maximum amount to Democratic challenger in Virginia House race Live coverage: McSally clashes with Sinema in Arizona Senate debate MORE (R-Ariz.), committee ranking member Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedOvernight Defense: Trump asks Turkey for evidence on missing journalist | Key Dem calls for international probe | Five things to know about 'MBS' | Air Force struggles to determine cost of hurricane damage to F-22 jets Trump administration doesn't have ambassadors in Saudi Arabia or Turkey Top Armed Services Dem calls for international probe into missing Saudi journalist MORE (D-R.I.) and Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSusan Collins and the mob mentality Graham: I hope Dems 'get their ass kicked' for conduct around Kavanaugh St. Lawrence alumni, faculty want honorary degree for Collins revoked MORE (R-Maine) have introduced a bill that would block Trump’s transgender ban by prohibiting the Pentagon from involuntarily separating or denying the re-enlistment of transgender troops solely on the basis of gender identity.

Asked by Gillibrand on Tuesday whether he’s met with transgender troops since Trump’s announcement, Dunford said he has not, but committed to do so. 

“I have not since I guess August when the announcement was made,” he said, “but I will certainly do that.”