News broke yesterday that FBI agents had raided the home of Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager with deep ties to Russia and the Ukraine. Conveniently, the raid happened in the early morning of July 26, just hours before Trump took to Twitter to declare that transgender service members would be banned from the military.
Amongst tweets that attacked Alaska GOP Senator Lisa Murkowski, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Acting FBI Director Andrew McGabe, and exaggerating the size of the crowd at a campaign rally the night before, Trump slid in the string of three tweets that took the military by surprise.
“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,” Trump tweeted. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.”
Trump’s “Generals and military experts” have pushed back on the claim that they were consulted or advocated for the ban. Secretary of Defense James Mattis was on vacation, for example, and said he learned about Trump’s rash decision via Twitter like everyone else. Some experts thought Trump was declaring war on North Korea.
Now it would appear that Trump was simply trying to deflect from the Manafort raid by dominating the news cycle with the transgender military ban story. The same day, newly hired (and now fired) Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci did a bizarre interview with CNN and later attacked then-Chief-of-Staff Reince Priebus. Together their antics garnered all the headlines while the story about the Manafort raid remained under wraps.
While we may never know whether the two are connected, Trump is known for being a master media manipulator and sleight of hand artist. It’s entirely plausible that he decided to use active duty military troops as fodder to distract from further connections between his presidential campaign and the Russian government.