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White House press briefing: Something different, then more of the same

Posted July 26

Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks at the White House press briefing on July 26, 2017.

The White House press briefing on Wednesday began with a new twist, but featured a familiar challenge for President Trump's surrogates: explaining his decisions on short notice.

Newly appointed press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders opened the briefing -- the first since the White House announced earlier this week that it was allowing television cameras to record the briefings again after a long stretch of forbidding it -- by reading from a letter from a nine-year-old named Dylan, who said that Trump was his favorite president.

Sanders said that from now on she will occasionally begin the briefings with a letter or email from "some of the forgotten men, women and children that we are here to serve and that the president is fighting for."

Related: Scaramucci begins White House press shop shake-up

When she moved to the rest of the briefing, though, Sanders inadvertently showed that even after the recent shake-up the White House's press shop is likely to struggle to keep up with the president.

Hours before Sanders took the podium on Wednesday, Trump had gone on social media to announce that, after consulting his generals and military experts, he had decided that transgender individuals will no longer be allowed "to serve in any capacity" in the military.

The announcement, which caught officials at the Pentagon off guard, dominated the briefing. And Sanders was unable to offer many details on the change in policy -- including what exactly it means for transgender servicemembers currently deployed overseas.

"The implementation policy is going to be something that the White House and the Department of Defense have to work together to lawfully determine," Sanders said, before brushing off suggestions that the announcement means that Trump has abandoned his campaign pledge from a year ago to be a champion for the LGBT community.

"The decision is based on a military decision," she said. "It's not meant to be anything more than that."

Eventually, Sanders grew frustrated by all the questions on the topic.

"As I've said before, and I'll try to make this clear: this was a military decision. This was about military readiness. This was about unit cohesion," Sanders said. "This was about resources within the military, and nothing more. Guys, I really don't have anything else to add on that topic. As I do, I'll keep you posted.

"If those are the only questions we have," she added, "I'm gonna call it a day."

The briefing continued for some time after that, though, as she went on to take other questions -- including some that were about the new policy.

CNN, Fox News and MSNBC all broadcast the briefing live.

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