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Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has issued guidance to military commanders stressing that there will be no change in military policy toward transgender service members until Defense Secretary Jim Mattis receives further direction from the White House.

President Trump Wednesday announced via Twitter what appeared to be a reinstatement of the military's ban on transgender service members.

"I know there are questions about yesterday’s announcement on the transgender policy by the president," Dunford said in a written message on Thursday to military commanders, according to a copy obtained by ABC News.

"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," the nation's top military commander continued.

"In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect," Dunford said. "As importantly, given the current fight and the challenges we face, we will all remain focused on accomplishing our assigned missions."

A Pentagon spokesman on Wednesday referred questions to the White House.

Vice Admiral Robert Burke, the Navy's top personnel officer, issued guidance to his commanders Wednesday that no personnel actions should be taken until further guidance is received by the White House and no ongoing medical treatments for transgender sailors should be ceased.

"With regard to implications for those currently serving, OSD (Office of the Secretary of Defense) is working to quickly discern the president's intent," Burke said in a copy of the guidance obtained by ABC News. “Treating service members with dignity and respect is something we expect from our sailors at all times."

The military does not track the number of transgender military service members through its personnel records, but the armed services do have information about service members who have contacted military medical services about a possible transgender transition.

About 160 sailors and fewer than five Marines are undergoing some form of transgender transition through the Navy's medical services, according to a Defense Department official. About 80 Army personnel are in similar transitions. The Air Force does not provide details about how many service members may be in transition.

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Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Even though Jeff Sessions has indicated he has no intention of leaving his post, President Donald Trump’s continued public criticism of his attorney general has raised speculation about whether the president might seek to use his recess-appointment authority to replace Sessions without Senate oversight should he resign or be fired.

So how would it work?

If Sessions were to resign or be fired by the president, the Constitution allows for the president to fill the post through a recess appointment if the Senate goes on recess for a period of more than 10 days.

Article II of the U.S. Constitution states that the president can “fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session.”

Under those terms, the president could appoint whomever he wants, with the pick remaining in effect until the end of the Senate’s next session -- through Jan. 3, 2019 -- without any need for Senate approval altogether in selecting a new acting attorney general.

It’s a prospect so worrisome on Capitol Hill that the Senate is set to block the scenario from presenting itself in the first place by keeping the Senate technically in session through the planned August recess.

Democratic Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois said Tuesday that "we're exploring the ways right now” to keep the Senate formally in session through the August recess, calling the prospect that the president could use the recess to stop the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election “unacceptable.” While the attorney general has the power to fire a special counsel, Sessions has effectively waived that authority to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, due to his recusal from campaign-related investigations.

Democrats could filibuster the motion to adjourn so that the Senate would gavel in every three days as a means to keep the Senate formally in session.

It’s not a new approach and was used commonly during the previous administration.

Jane Chong, deputy managing editor of the legal blog Lawfare, notes that Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., did just that while Barack Obama was president.

“Under McConnell, we saw the Senate do pro forma sessions specifically to prevent from going into recess under this definition and, by extension, to prevent President Obama from exercising his recess powers,” Chong said.

The power to decide whether the Senate is in session rests solely with that legislative branch, with Chong pointing to the Supreme Court’s ruling in the 2014 National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning case.

"We hold that, for purposes of the recess appointments clause, the Senate is in session when it says it is, provided that, under its own rules, it retains the capacity to transact Senate business,” the case reads.

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Vstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Numbers from a 2016 Rand Corp. study show that the ban on transgender people in the military announced by President Trump may affect only a small percentage of the 1.3 million active-duty service members currently enlisted.

On Wednesday, Trump wrote on Twitter that transgender people would not be allowed to serve in the U.S. "in any capacity," but it is unclear how the ban would affect transgender people already serving.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was unable to say during a press briefing Wednesday how the new policy would be implemented.

Here are the numbers on transgender individuals in the U.S. military:

How many transgender individuals serve in the military?


Advocacy organizations have wide-ranging estimates on how many transgender people may be serving in the military.

The 2016 Rand study, titled "Assessing the Implications of Allowing Transgender Personnel to Serve Openly," estimates that between 1,320 and 6,630 of 1.3 million active-duty service members may be transgender.

A mid-range estimate states that 2,450 active-duty service members and 1,510 members in the U.S. reserves may be transgender, according to the study.

The Department of Defense does not provide official numbers on transgender service members, but four of the military services have some numbers that indicate how very few active-duty members of the military have officially self-identified as transgender.

One defense official said the number of service members that have identified as transgender is in the low hundreds.

Only a "subset" of service members would seek a gender transition-related treatment, according to the Rand study.

Estimates derived from data from surveys and private health insurance claims indicate that between 29 and 129 active-duty service members could seek transition-related care that could "disrupt their ability to deploy," the study states.

What are the estimated costs to health care?

The cost of extending gender transition-related health care coverage to transgender service members would increase active-component health care costs by between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually, according to the study.

This represents a .04 to .13 percent increase in active-component health care expenditures, according to Rand.

How would transgender individuals affect military readiness?

There would be "little to no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness or readiness," according to the study.

"Policy changes to open more roles to women and to allow gay and lesbian personnel to serve openly in the U.S. military have similarly had no significant effect on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness or readiness," the study states.

Commanders of foreign militaries that allow transgender personnel noted that integration policies "had benefits for all service members by creating a more inclusive and diverse force," according to the study.

Why did Defense Secretary James Mattis decide to delay review of transgender applicants to U.S. military?

On June 30, Defense Secretary James Mattis decided to delay the Obama-era review of allowing transgender individuals to join the military.

A statement from Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Dana White indicates that Mattis made that decision based on recommendations from the services.

"Secretary Mattis today approved a recommendation by the services to defer accessing transgender applicants into the military until Jan. 1, 2018," White said of the June 30 decision. "The services will review their accession plans and provide input on the impact to the readiness and lethality of our forces."

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Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Newly named White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci on Wednesday wrote in a now-deleted cryptic tweet that the "leak" of his financial disclosure form is a "felony," adding that he would be contacting the FBI and The Department of Justice.

"In light of the leak of my financial disclosure info which is a felony, I will be contacting @FBI and the @JusticeDept #swamp @Reince45," read the tweet, posted at 10:41 p.m.

Scaramucci was referring to a report by Politico which revealed the findings of the former Wall Street financier's disclosure, which was filed with the Office of Government Ethics. According to the report, Scaramucci earned $4.9 million from his stake in the investment firm SkyBridge Capital and a salary of more than $5 million between January 2016 and June 2017.

But to contextualize it as a leak is incorrect. Why? Because it's a public document.

Wikileaks, for example, tweeted, "Your financial disclosure report is a public document," with an image of instructions on how to obtain such a report.

Your financial disclosure report is a public document. https://t.co/H8goxJlmFG pic.twitter.com/Ir28JpYZdA

— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 27, 2017


Scaramucci's tweet also raised eyebrows because he included White House chief of staff Reince Priebus's Twitter handle.

At a press briefing last week, though, Scaramucci said he had no friction with Priebus. "Reince and I have been personal friends for six years," he said last Friday. "We are a little bit like brothers where we rough each other up once in a while, which is totally normal for brothers. There’s a lot of people in here who have brothers, and so you get that. But he’s a dear friend. He brought me into the political system. He brought me into the Republican National Committee network."

After the Twittersphere lit up, pointing out to Scaramucci that the disclosure form is public and that it appeared he was threatening Preibus, he deleted the tweet, and posted a new one at 12:47 a.m., writing that he wasn't calling for the FBI and DOJ to investigate Preibus: "Wrong! Tweet was public notice to leakers that all Sr Adm officials are helping to end illegal leaks. @Reince45," he wrote.

Late Wednesday night the DOJ released a statement, agreeing with Scaramucci that leaks, in general, are an issue.

"We have seen an astonishing increase in the number of leaks of classified national security information in recent months," DOJ spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said. "We agree with Anthony that these staggering number of leaks are undermining the ability of our government to function and to protect this country. Like the Attorney General has said, 'whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail,' and we will aggressively pursue leak cases wherever they may lead."

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US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate is in the middle of thick debate, struggling to pass any option for repealing or replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). After a proposal to only repeal the majority of the law failed Wednesday afternoon, Senate sources say the Republican leadership’s next move will likely be to introduce a narrower repeal bill that would only scrap portions of the ACA.

This path, dubbed the “skinny” repeal, as it would be limited in scope, is still in the works. But senators say one possibility would be a bill that only repeals the individual and employer mandates in the ACA as well as the medical device tax.

This approach could leave other parts of the current law intact, including the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid, marketplace regulations about what insurance companies have to cover and what they can charge, and subsidies for people buying their own insurance. GOP lawmakers hope this will increase their chances of passing the bill.

But so far, senators have not proposed specific language for a limited or “skinny” repeal.

"We’re going to figure out from our members what the traffic will bear in terms of getting as much of the Obamacare repeal and other elements into a bill that gets 50 votes," Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., a member of the Senate GOP leadership, said Wednesday.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., indicated he'd vote for a bare-bones package as long as it kept the process moving forward. "We'll keep the process going. If we've got to do something less than obviously I'd want to keep the process going, we'll do it," he said.

Under current law, the individual mandate places a penalty tax on those who choose to opt out of insurance plans, while the employer mandate requires companies with a minimum of 50 full-time employees to offer coverage to their workers. The repeal will likely also propose cuts on the current taxes on medical device companies.

Some Republican senators, including Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said they would not support a vote on any repeal efforts that do not lead to another push to draft a comprehensive replacement option. "We’re trying to find those things that we can agree upon. The main thing to me is a vehicle to do something bigger," Graham told reporters.

With the individual mandate revoked, more young, healthy Americans may choose to forgo coverage. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicted that just repealing the individual mandate could lead to 15 million fewer Americans having health coverage as opposed to current law. By 2026 they estimate that 43 million people would be uninsured.

Henry Aaron of the Brookings Institution and Urban Institute scholar Robert Reischauer wrote in a Brookings report that this would leave “insurers with a pool of sicker and costlier-than-average customers,” driving companies to increase their premiums in the non-group market. The CBO estimates that premiums would likely jump by 20 percent relative to rates under current law.

This increase in premium costs could lead to some people being priced out of plans they can no longer afford, or the federal government may compensate for these people through subsidies and tax credits.

The individual mandate provides social cost-savers as well. If people don’t have insurance, but still get sick, hospitals, taxpayers, and local governments end up covering the costs. “In the absence of a mandate, those social costs would probably increase relative to the case under current law," the CBO said in a report last December.

The employer mandate would likely have some coverage consequences, but less than the individual mandate. If passed, a limited repeal could also serve as a placeholder legislation that would allot GOP Senators to plan a more comprehensive replacement to the Affordable Care Act in coming sessions.

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Photo by Michael Hernandez/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The acting chief of diplomatic security is leaving the State Department Thursday, vacating two important roles that ensure the protection of American diplomats serving around the world.

Six months in, the Trump administration still has not named its pick for Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security -- and dozens of other top roles at the State Department -- despite then-candidate Donald Trump's constant criticism of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's handling of the Benghazi attack.

Bill Miller has been the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and Director of the Diplomatic Security Service since 2014, and he was made Acting Assistant Secretary after his predecessor Gregory Starr, a career foreign service officer, left in January.

Miller was not forced out and has not resigned in protest, according to the State Department, and with his departure, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs Christian Schurman will assume the Acting Assistant Secretary role.

But the departure is causing outrage from some Democrats, who are crying hypocrisy from a president who raged about the Benghazi attack that killed four Americans serving in Libya, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

“It's an absolute abrogation of leadership by the President and Secretary Tillerson, and it's putting American lives at risk,” said Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in a paper statement.

“If [Trump] cared about protecting our Foreign Service officers, he would have long ago nominated an Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security,” he added.

Miller’s departure is also a reminder of how few positions the Trump administration has filled at the State Department. They still have no senior officials confirmed by the Senate other than Secretary Rex Tillerson and his Deputy Secretary John Sullivan. Only six individuals have been named for senior positions and are awaiting confirmation.

The empty slots include four of six Under Secretary positions that are vacant; one is filled by an individual in an acting role, and the other is filled by Tom Shannon, who was confirmed by the Senate in 2016.

There are 108 other senior roles -- some that require Senate confirmation and some that don’t -- including Assistant Secretaries who are the policy lead for different regions, like the Near East or East Asia, and special envoys who are focused on particularly vexing issues or hot spots, like counterterrorism or anti-Semitism.

Of those 108 other roles, 31 are filled by someone in an acting role, and 41 are completely vacant, with two more soon to be empty: the Coordinator for Cyber Issues, in charge of diplomatic engagement on cyber issues and security, and the ambassador-at-large for Global Criminal Justice, who advises the Secretary on war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

The State Department has said that there are candidates in the pipeline who are held up by paperwork and that some roles will not be filled until Tillerson completes his review and reorganization of the agency's structure.

"All of those functions will still remain here at the State Department," State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said Tuesday. "A different person may handle it. In some instances, it may get combined with an existing bureau. That doesn’t mean that the priority goes away and that doesn’t mean that the functions of that job or its duties will go away."

CBS News was the first to report Miller’s departure.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson shot down rumors of his own resignation, saying "I'm not going anywhere."

When asked how long he would serve for, Tillerson said "as long as the president lets me." He also said his relationship with President Trump is "good."

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Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- With the failure Wednesday afternoon of the 2015 House bill that would just repeal the Affordable Care Act, Congress’ two best chances to scrap the legislation in one fell swoop dissipated before senators’ eyes.

That amendment, which also contained a provision to delay the implementation of a repeal by two years to allow lawmakers to come up with a replacement system, failed 45-55, with seven Republicans joining their Democratic colleagues in opposition.

The Senate will now continue voting on measures from both parties, with the Republican ones mostly geared toward scrapping individual aspects of Obamacare one by one -- still in pursuit of the goal Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., laid out Wednesday morning.

"Ultimately, we want to get legislation that will finally end the Obamacare status quo through Congress and to the president's desk," he said.

The straight repeal-only option was based on 2015 piece of legislation that passed both chambers of Congress but was vetoed by then-President Barack Obama.

Although that language cleared the House and Senate back then, some Senate Republicans acknowledge now that the vote was symbolic. It was used by some at the time to send a message to Obama and to their constituents back home even though they knew it would be vetoed. And before Wednesday’s vote, some Republicans said they would not back the repeal-only option this time.

Senate Republicans' first attempt at passing their replacement legislation failed last night, with nine Republicans joining all of the chamber's Democrats to defeat it, 43-57.

That outcome was not a surprise, given that the bill was previously pulled from the Senate floor because of lack of support.

Republicans from several factions of the party stated their objections to it for a variety of reasons, including its proposed cuts to Medicaid, failure to cut premiums sufficiently and failure to repeal Obamacare entirely.

Republican leadership is expected to move through various versions of repeal, including limited repeal options that would scrap only portions of the Affordable Care Act, such as the individual and employer mandates.

After those votes, the full Senate, even Democrats, will be able to offer additional amendments.

That so-called vote-a-rama later this week could open the floodgates for all senators to introduce as many amendments as they want.

That process could last until senators are physically exhausted.

Democrats have said they have hundreds of amendments to offer and are preparing for a marathon.



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US Department of Justice(WASHINGTON) -- White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Wednesday that President Trump has "been very clear" about his feelings toward Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

"He's obviously disappointed but also wants the attorney general to continue to focus on the things that the attorney general does. He wants him to lead the Department of Justice. He wants to do that strongly. He wants him to focus on things like immigration, leaks and a number of other issues," Sanders told reporters at the White House.

She added, "You can be disappointed in someone but still want them to continue to do their job and that's where they are."

Sanders also confirmed that Sessions was at the White House Wednesday "for other meetings" but he did not meet with the president.

Sessions' chief of staff, Jody Hunt, recently informed White House chief of staff Reince Priebus that Sessions has no plans to resign from his post, despite growing pressure from Trump, a U.S. official told ABC News.

The president recently called Sessions — one of Trump's staunchest supporters during the presidential campaign — "beleaguered" and "weak." And Trump told reporters Tuesday that he would not have chosen Sessions for attorney general if he had known Sessions would recuse himself from the federal probe of Russia's efforts to influence last year's presidential election.

"We will see what happens. Time will tell," Trump said in response to a question Tuesday about Sessions' possible resignation.

The Washington Post first reported Hunt's conversation with Priebus.

Trump's public disparagement of Sessions continued Wednesday morning, with the president questioning Sessions' decision to keep the acting FBI director on board.

"Why didn't A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation but got big dollars ($700,000) for his wife's political run from Hillary Clinton and her representatives. Drain the Swamp!" Trump wrote in two tweets.

Even with the status of his tenure as attorney general unclear, Sessions and his team have been moving ahead with his fight against sanctuary cities. On Tuesday the Department of Justice announced that it will be tightening requirements for cities and other jurisdictions around the country that want key federal grants. In order to receive grants in the next fiscal year, the DOJ will require cities and other jurisdictions to certify that they are in compliance with a law that allows federal authorities to obtain immigration-related information on "any individual" from local police.

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White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said today that President Trump has "been very clear" about his feelings toward Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

"He's obviously disappointed but also wants the attorney general to continue to focus on the things that the attorney general does. He wants him to lead the Department of Justice. He wants to do that strongly. He wants him to focus on things like immigration, leaks and a number of other issues," Sanders told reporters at the White House.

She added, "You can be disappointed in someone but still want them to continue to do their job and that's where they are."

Sanders also confirmed that Sessions was at the White House today "for other meetings" but he did not meet with the president.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sessions' chief of staff, Jody Hunt, recently informed White House chief of staff Reince Priebus that Sessions has no plans to resign from his post, despite growing pressure from Trump, a U.S. official told ABC News.

The president recently called Sessions — one of Trump's staunchest supporters during the presidential campaign — "beleaguered" and "weak." And Trump told reporters yesterday that he would not have chosen Sessions for attorney general if he had known Sessions would recuse himself from the federal probe of Russia's efforts to influence last year's presidential election.

"We will see what happens. Time will tell," Trump said in response to a question Tuesday about Sessions' possible resignation.

The Washington Post first reported Hunt's conversation with Priebus.

Trump's public disparagement of Sessions continued this morning, with the president questioning Sessions' decision to keep the acting FBI director on board.

"Why didn't A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation but got big dollars ($700,000) for his wife's political run from Hillary Clinton and her representatives. Drain the Swamp!" Trump wrote in two tweets.

 

 

 

 

Even with the status of his tenure as attorney general unclear, Sessions and his team have been moving ahead with his fight against sanctuary cities. On Tuesday the Department of Justice announced that it will be tightening requirements for cities and other jurisdictions around the country that want key federal grants. In order to receive grants in the next fiscal year, the DOJ will require cities and other jurisdictions to certify that they are in compliance with a law that allows federal authorities to obtain immigration-related information on "any individual" from local police.

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Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- Former Trump campaign adviser J.D. Gordon appeared on Capitol Hill Wednesday for an interview with the House Intelligence Committee investigating Russian election interference.

Gordon, who told ABC News he was appearing for a “closed meeting" with the committee, advised Trump on foreign policy during the presidential campaign.

Gordon played a role in putting together the Republican Party platform, which was criticized for taking a pro-Russian position on the defense of Ukraine. He also met with then-Russian ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak at the GOP Convention in Cleveland in July 2016, a meeting first reported by USA Today.

CNN has reported that Gordon tried to make changes to the GOP platform on Ukraine to align it with Trump's own position and comments.

Gordon is one of several Trump campaign advisers and associates that have been contacted by congressional investigators. Former Trump aide Michael Caputo has appeared before the House committee, while longtime adviser Roger Stone and campaign digital director Brad Parscale are expected to appear for interviews in the coming weeks.

Paul Manafort, the former chairman of Trump's presidential campaign, met with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators on Tuesday and has provided documents to the Senate Judiciary Committee as well.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- President Donald Trump’s tweets Wednesday morning, announcing his decision to ban transgender Americans from serving in the military, have elicited a wide range of reactions.

Democrats and anti-discrimination groups largely condemned the policy while others expressed support for it.

Here are some of the responses, including statements from lawmakers and the LGBTQ community.

Democrats reacted swiftly, calling the bill discriminatory and unpatriotic:

Former Vice President Joe Biden, via Twitter

“Every patriotic American who is qualified to serve in our military should be able to serve. Full stop.”

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.

“When my Black Hawk helicopter was shot down in Iraq, I didn't care if the American troops risking their lives to help save me were gay, straight, transgender or anything else. All that mattered was they didn't leave me behind. If you are willing to risk your life for our country and you can do the job, you should be able to serve—no matter your gender identity, sexual orientation or race. Anything else is discriminatory and counterproductive to our national security.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.

“This morning transgender service members put on their uniform and showed up for their military duties to be told by their Commander in Chief via Twitter that he doesn’t want them in ‘any capacity.’ These service members are willing to die for their country, and this is an insult to their brave and honorable service. This new directive is harmful, misguided, and weakens – not strengthens – our military. I will introduce legislation and will fight to overturn this discriminatory decision.”

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., via Twitter

“I disagree with this decision. If you are qualified to serve, you shouldn't be banned from the military.

Also – did the president really consult military leaders on this? Four Star General told SASC a week ago they wanted time to review this.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., via Twitter

“The only thing – only thing – that matters when it comes to allowing military personnel to serve is whether or not they can handle the job.

By attacking thousands of troops, @realDonaldTrump makes clear that he cares more about extreme ideology than military readiness.

.@realDonaldTrump can pretend this is a military decision, but it isn't. Banning troops on gender identity is shameful & makes us less safe.”

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., via Twitter

“Transgender Americans in military are heroes like anyone else risking their lives to defend us. @POTUS is wrong.”

House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., via Twitter

“@POTUS @realDonaldTrump I promise you: this fight is not over. Hatred will never defeat #pride – both of country & of living your life as your true self.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

“This administration's directive against the transgender community is intolerable, unjust, and a betrayal of our values. #LGBT.”

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, via Twitter

“President Trump needs to wake up. We want an inclusive society. God bless all who want to serve our nation, regardless of gender identity.”

Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel

“On the 69th anniversary of President Truman’s order to integrate the military, President Trump has come down on the wrong side of history. He is choosing to divide us rather than unite us. Brave Americans who seek to selflessly serve this country in uniform should have the opportunity to answer the call to service, regardless of their identity. The Trump administration's decision to ban transgender individuals from serving in the U.S. armed forces is another anachronistic, divisive and discriminatory policy that does nothing to enhance the safety and security of the country.”

Reaction from Republican lawmakers and conservative groups:

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

“The president’s tweet this morning regarding transgender Americans in the military is yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter.

The statement was unclear. The Department of Defense has already decided to allow currently-serving transgender individuals to stay in the military, and many are serving honorably today. Any American who meets current medical and readiness standards should be allowed to continue serving. There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave the military—regardless of their gender identity. We should all be guided by the principle that any American who wants to serve our country and is able to meet the standards should have the opportunity to do so—and should be treated as the patriots they are."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

“The commander in chief has a lot of latitude here. I don't know what the policy proposal is. I don't know why he decided what he did. But I think the right thing to do here is to have a hearing so we can hear from both sides.”

American Family Association president Tim Wildmon

“AFA applauds President Trump for his courageous decision to end the usage of our military for social engineering and political correctness. American families deserve a military that is focused solely on readiness and national defense.”

Log Cabin Republicans

"This smacks of politics, pure and simple. The United States military already includes transgender individuals who protect our freedom day in and day out. Excommunicating transgender soldiers only weakens our readiness; it doesn’t strengthen it. The president’s statement this morning does a disservice to transgender military personnel and reintroduces the same hurtful stereotypes conjured when openly gay men and women were barred from service during the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ era. As an organization that led the charge against that hateful policy, Log Cabin Republicans remains equally committed to standing up for transgender military personnel who put their lives on the line to keep us free."

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins

"I applaud President Trump for keeping his promise to return to military priorities -- and not continue the social experimentation of the Obama era that has crippled our nation's military. The military can now focus its efforts on preparing to fight and win wars rather than being used to advance the Obama social agenda.

President Trump recognizes what the nation's military leadership and the American people realize, this Obama policy makes no sense.

Now that we are assured that the Defense Department has its fiscal priorities in order, Family Research Council withdraws our opposition to increasing the budget of the Department of Defense through the 'Make America Secure Appropriations Act' and looks forward to seeing that legislation pass."

LGBTQ rights activists and groups were outraged:

Chelsea Manning, via Twitter

"Today is further reason we should dismantle the bloated and dangerous military/intel/police state to fund #healthcare for all ?????? #WeGotThis."

Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin

“Today Donald Trump has proven himself as unpatriotic as he is unfit to serve as Commander in Chief. He has put a target on the backs of the more than 15,000 transgender troops proudly serving in our military. This heinous and disgusting action endangers the lives of American service members, undermines military readiness and makes our country less safe. It is also the latest effort by Trump and Mike Pence to undo our progress and drag LGBTQ people back into the closet by using our lives as political pawns.”

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt

“It’s a sad day when the President of the United States declares that transgender Americans are unwelcome in the United States military. This policy is deeply objectionable – it devalues individual Americans and is blatantly discriminatory. We’ll fight against this unpatriotic ban of transgender troops. We cannot let bigotry stop Americans from serving their country. It is especially bitter and ironic that President Trump is attempting to place unnecessary and discriminatory barriers against transgender military service on the very anniversary of President Harry Truman’s executive action in 1948 to desegregate the military.”

American Civil Liberties Union

"This is an outrageous and desperate action. The thousands of transgender service members serving on the front lines for this country deserve better than a commander-in-chief who rejects their basic humanity,” said Joshua Block, the staff attorney for the National ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Projects.

Let us be clear. This has been studied extensively, and the consensus is clear: There are no cost or military readiness drawbacks associated with allowing trans people to fight for their country. The president is trying to score cheap political points on the backs of military personnel who have put their lives on the line for their country.

There is no basis for turning trans people away from our military and the ACLU is examining all of our options on how to fight this. For any trans service member affected by today’s announcement: Please get in touch with us, because we want to hear from you."

GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis

“President Trump today issued a direct attack on transgender Americans, and his administration will stop at nothing to implement its anti-LGBTQ ideology within our government – even if it means denying some of our bravest Americans the right to serve and protect our nation. Today further exposed President Trump’s overall goal to erase LGBTQ Americans from this nation. Trump has never been a friend to LGBTQ Americans, and this action couldn’t make that any more clear.”

National Center from Transgender Equality executive director Mara Kiesling

"This is worse than don’t ask don’t tell, this is don’t serve, don’t serve. This is an appalling attack on our service members; it is about bigotry rather than military readiness, reason or science. It is indefensible and cannot stand. The President wants to discard thousands of trained and skilled troops who are already serving honorably and done nothing but be honest about who they are. To turn away qualified recruits simply because of who they are is a shameful way to show our country's gratitude to the people who serve our country."


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Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., was discharged from MedStar Washington Hospital Center on Tuesday, the hospital said in a statement on Wednesday, nearly six weeks after he and three others were shot at a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia.

The House majority whip "is now beginning a period of intensive inpatient rehabilitation," the hospital said. "He is in good spirits and is looking forward to his return to work once he completes rehabilitation."

The statement added, "He and his family are grateful for the care he received from the trauma team as well as the other doctors, nurses and staff of MedStar Washington Hospital Center. The family also appreciates the outpouring of prayers and support during this time."

Dr. Jack Sava, the director of trauma at the MedStar Washington Hospital Center, said after the shooting that Scalise had "sustained a single rifle wound that entered in the area of the left hip. It traveled directly across toward the other hip in what we call a transpelvic gunshot wound. The round fragmented and did substantial damage to bones, internal organs and blood vessels."

"I understand he was awake on scene, but by the time he was transported by helicopter to the MedStar trauma center, he was in shock," Sava said. "When he arrived, he was in critical condition with an imminent risk of death." His condition later improved.

The shooter, identified by police as James Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, Illinois, was killed in a shootout with police.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate is in the thick of a potentially dayslong process to find a health care plan that Republicans might be able to actually pass.

Senators will vote on numerous possibilities for repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The votes are being held in the hope that Republicans can reach some kind of consensus that would allow both chambers of Congress to pass a piece of health care legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set the scene as he kicked off the second day of health care-related votes Wednesday morning.

“Ultimately, we want to get legislation that will finally end the Obamacare status quo through Congress and to the president’s desk,” he said.

The Senate is expected to vote on a straight repeal-only option based on a piece of legislation from 2015 that passed both chambers of Congress but was vetoed by then-President Barack Obama.

Although that language cleared the House and Senate back then, some Senate Republicans acknowledge now that the vote was symbolic. It was used by some at the time to send a message to Obama and to their constituents back home even though they knew it would be vetoed. More recently, several Republicans have said they won’t back a straight repeal-only option like that one; as of now, it will likely fail.

Senate Republicans' first attempt at passing their own replacement legislation failed last night, with nine Republicans joining all of the chamber's Democrats to defeat it, 43-57.

That outcome was not a surprise, given that the bill had previously been pulled from the Senate floor due to lack of support.

Republicans from several factions of the party had previously stated their objections to it for a variety of reasons, including its proposed cuts to Medicaid, failure to cut premiums sufficiently and failure to repeal Obamacare entirely.

Republican leadership is expected to move through various versions of repeal, including possible limited repeal options that would only scrap portions of the Affordable Care Act, such as the individual and employer mandates.

After those votes, the full Senate -- even Democrats -- will be able to offer additional amendments.

That so-called "vote-a-rama" later this week could open the floodgates for all senators to introduce as many amendments as they want.

That process could last until senators are physically exhausted.

Democrats have said they have "hundreds" of amendments to offer and are preparing for a marathon.

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The White House(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump announced Wednesday morning that after consulting with his generals and military experts, transgender people will not be allowed to serve in the U.S. military "in any capacity."

After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow......

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017

....Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming.....

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017

....victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017

His surprise announcement comes after Defense Secretary James Mattis last month delayed the review of an Obama-era policy that allowed openly transgender people to join the military.

Trump's new policy goes further than Mattis' delay in definitively barring transgender people from serving in the military.

"We refer all questions about the president's statements to the White House," Defense Department spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said in a statement. "We will continue to work closely with the White House to address the new guidance provided by the commander-in-chief on transgender individuals serving the military. We will provide revised guidance to the department in the near future."

He declined to confirm whether Trump consulted Mattis before the announcement.

In June 2016, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that transgender individuals would be able to openly serve in the armed forces. He referred at the time to a Rand study estimate that 2,500 to 7,000 of the 1.3 million active-duty service members might be transgender.

In a written statement last month, Mattis approved a recommendation to defer the decision to allow transgender individuals to join the military, known as accession.

"The services will review their accession plans and provide input on the impact to the readiness and lethality of our forces," the statement read.

In June of last year, then-candidate Trump tweeted his support for the LGBT community and attacked his opponent Hillary Clinton.

Some, including the bipartisan Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, have characterized Trump's announcement Wednesday morning as standing in direct contradiction to his previously voiced support for the LGBT community.

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- One of the Justice Department's highest officials has notified the White House that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has no plans to resign from his post, a U.S. official told ABC News.

In recent days, Jody Hunt, the chief of staff to Sessions, informed White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus about Sessions' plans, despite growing pressure from President Donald Trump, the official said.

Sessions, one of President Trump's staunchest supporters during the presidential campaign, has recently been called "beleaguered" and "weak" by the commander-in-chief. And President Trump told reporters on Tuesday that he would not have chosen Sessions for attorney general if he had known Sessions would be recusing himself from the federal probe looking at Russia's efforts to influence last year's presidential election.

Asked on Tuesday whether Sessions would be asked to resign, President Trump said, "We will see what happens. Time will tell."

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump's close adviser and former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said the president will likely have a private conversation with Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the coming days, following his recent spate of public criticism against the former Alabama senator.

"I don't think he's humiliating Jeff Sessions," Lewandowski told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview Wednesday on Good Morning America.

Whether or not Trump decides to fire Sessions, Lewandowski said he believes the president will speak with the attorney general in person.

"I think the president is going to have that conversation with Sen. Sessions," he said. "I know the president is thankful for the work that Jeff has done."

Lewandowski said Trump's decision about whether to keep Sessions in the role will ultimately be one that's "thought out" with "a plan in place."

Lewandowki's comments come a day after Trump said he is "disappointed" in Sessions, adding to a barrage of public rebukes.

"He should not have recused himself almost immediately after he took office, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me prior to taking office, and I would have, quite simply, picked somebody else," Trump said on Tuesday during a joint press conference alongside Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

"So I think that's a bad thing -- not for the president, but for the presidency. I think it's unfair to the presidency, and that's the way I feel," Trump added.

Trump said he wants Sessions to be "much tougher on the leaks from intelligence agencies, which are leaking, like, rarely have they ever leaked before at a very important level."

"These are intelligence agencies. We cannot have that happen," the president said.

"We will see what happens. Time will tell. Time will tell," he added.



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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump's close adviser and former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said the president will likely have a private conversation with Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the coming days, following his recent spate of public criticism against the former Alabama senator.

"I don't think he's humiliating Jeff Sessions," Lewandowski told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview Wednesday on Good Morning America.

Whether or not Trump decides to fire Sessions, Lewandowski said he believes the president will speak with the attorney general in person.

"I think the president is going to have that conversation with Sen. Sessions," he said. "I know the president is thankful for the work that Jeff has done."

Lewandowski said Trump's decision about whether to keep Sessions in the role will ultimately be one that's "thought out" with "a plan in place."

Lewandowki's comments come a day after Trump said he is "disappointed" in Sessions, adding to a barrage of public rebukes.

"He should not have recused himself almost immediately after he took office, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me prior to taking office, and I would have, quite simply, picked somebody else," Trump said on Tuesday during a joint press conference alongside Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

"So I think that's a bad thing, not for the president, but for the presidency. I think it's unfair to the presidency, and that's the way I feel," Trump added.

Trump said he wants Sessions to be "much tougher on the leaks from intelligence agencies, which are leaking, like, rarely have they ever leaked before at a very important level."

"These are intelligence agencies. We cannot have that happen," the president said.

"We will see what happens. Time will tell. Time will tell," he added.

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