Joe Biden overturns Trump ban on trans people joining US military

House of Representatives is set to formally charge Trump with inciting insurrection

US president Joe Biden has overturned a controversial ban by his predecessor Donald Trump on transgender people serving in the US military. Video: C-Span

 

Democratic president Joe Biden on Monday overturned a controversial ban by his predecessor on transgender individuals joining the US military, a move that fulfills a campaign promise and will be cheered by LGBTQ advocates.

Former Democratic president Barack Obama in 2016 allowed trans people to serve openly in the military and receive medical care to transition genders, but Republican president Donald Trump subsequently froze their recruitment in 2017 while allowing serving personnel to remain.

“President Biden believes that gender identity should not be a bar to military service, and that America’s strength is found in its diversity,” the White House said in a statement.

“Allowing all qualified Americans to serve their country in uniform is better for the military and better for the country because an inclusive force is a more effective force. Simply put, it’s the right thing to do and is in our national interest,” it said.

During his confirmation hearing, Mr Biden’s pick to lead the Pentagon, retired army general Lloyd Austin, said he supported overturning the ban.

Formally charge

Meanwhile, the US House of Representatives on Monday will formally charge Mr Trump with inciting insurrection in a fiery speech to supporters before this month’s deadly attack on the Capitol, signalling the start of his second impeachment trial.

At about 7pm local time on Monday, nine House Democrats who will serve as prosecutors will proceed through the building where hundreds of Trump supporters fought with police earlier this month, leaving five dead, carrying the article of impeachment to the Senate, where Mr Trump will face trial.

A similar ceremony was carried out for Mr Trump’s first impeachment trial last January, when the House clerk and sergeant at arms led a small procession of politicians through a hushed Capitol.

Monday’s event will cement two historic firsts – Mr Trump is the only US president to have been impeached by the House twice and will be the first to face trial after leaving office. If convicted in the Senate it could result in a vote to ban him from holding future office.

Leaders of the Senate, which is divided 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, with Democrats holding a majority because of the tie-breaking vote of vice-president Kamala Harris, have agreed not to start the trial until February 9th. That gives Mr Trump more time to prepare a defence and allows the chamber to focus on Mr Biden’s early priorities, including cabinet appointments.

After a two-month campaign to try to discredit his defeat in November’s presidential election, Mr Trump on January 6th urged his followers to “fight” to overturn the result. A mob later descended on the Capitol, sending politicians in the building into hiding and for several hours delaying Congress’s formal certification of Mr Biden’s victory in the election.

Ten House Republicans joined Democrats in voting to impeach Mr Trump, a step akin to an indictment in a criminal trial. Senate Democrats will need the support of 17 Republicans to convict him, a steep climb given Mr Trump’s continued popularity with Republican voters.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll on Friday found that 51 per cent of Americans thought the Senate should convict Mr Trump. That largely broke down along party lines, with less than two in 10 Republicans agreeing.

Republican criticism

Multiple Republicans, including the party’s Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, have condemned the violence in the Capitol riot and criticised Mr Trump for inciting it. Republican senator Mitt Romney told CNN on Sunday that the impeachment trial was necessitated by Mr Trump’s inflammatory call to his supporters.

“I believe that what is being alleged and what we saw, which is incitement to insurrection, is an impeachable offence. If not, what is?” said Mr Romney, a frequent Trump critic and the only Republican to vote to convict him at his first impeachment trial.

But a significant number of Republican politicians have raised objections to the impeachment effort. Senator Marco Rubio pronounced the trial “stupid” and “counterproductive” on Fox News Sunday.

“We already have a flaming fire in this country and it’s like taking a bunch of gasoline and pouring it on top of the fire,” Mr Rubio said.

The case in this trial is a simpler one than in Mr Trump’s first, which focused on a phone call with Ukraine’s president that was disclosed by a whistleblower. In this case, the actions in question played out in a public speech and a separate phone call to a Georgia election official that was released to the news media.

Mr Trump was acquitted in his first trial last year, which took nearly three weeks and dealt with charges the president had abused his power and obstructed Congress in relation to his call pressing Ukraine to investigate Mr Biden. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said on Sunday the second trial would be fairly quick.

“Everyone wants to put this awful chapter in American history behind us. But sweeping it under the rug will not bring healing,” Mr Schumer said in New York. “I believe it will be a fair trial. But it will move relatively quickly and not take up too much time, because we have so much else to do.” – Reuters