Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Thursday said President Donald Trump’s impromptu announcement of a blanket ban on letting transgender individuals serve in the U.S. military is “exactly the wrong way” to work on national security policy.
“You cannot do it by a tweet the way the President has done it without taking the time to sit down with our military leaders, with our defense officials, and really work through the policy involved here,” Panetta said on MSNBC.
Trump on Wednesday announced via Twitter that the U.S. government “will not accept or allow” transgender individuals to serve in the military “in any capacity.”
“This is exactly the wrong way to make policy that affects our national security,” Panetta said. “And so we’re seeing the consequences of that.”
Panetta worked in both the Obama and Clinton administrations, and served as director of the CIA and secretary of defense under President Obama.
Panetta commended Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for telling military leaders that no changes will be made to the policy on letting transgender individuals serve in the military until Trump’s decision travels through the legally mandated chain of command.
“He’s absolutely right,” Panetta said. “A tweet is not a directive to the Defense Department.”
Leon Panetta on transgender troops: This is exactly the wrong way to make policy that affects our national security https://t.co/R5d5LPIuux
— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) July 27, 2017
He also condemned infighting in Trump’s administration, where just this morning White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci appeared to try and sic the FBI and Justice Department on White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, while Trump was fresh from a week-long tear against Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Panetta said that “never” in his lifetime has he “seen a president who treats his cabinet the way this President has done.”
“You can’t be President of the United States and have everybody in the White House shooting at each other,” he said. “To have this kind of open warfare going on between the President, his staff, and his cabinet members is an absolute disgrace to how this country ought to operate.”