BEDMINSTER, United States - President Donald Trump said Thursday that he did the US military a "great favor" by banning transgender troops from the armed forces.
Trump, speaking to reporters at his New Jersey country club, said the issue of transgender service members had been "complicated" and "confusing" for the military.
"Look, I have great respect for the (transgender) community," Trump said. "I think I have great support -- or I've had -- great support from that community.
"I got a lot of votes."
But Trump said the issue of transgender troops has been a "very difficult situation" for the US armed forces.
"As you know, it's been a very complicated issue for the military," he said. "It's been a very confusing issue for the military.
"I think I'm doing the military a great favor."
In a series of three tweets last month, Trump upended an Obama-era policy of more than a year that allowed transgender troops to serve openly.
His announcement came with little or no coordination with the Pentagon and landed while Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was on vacation, leaving the astonished department scrambling to come up with a coherent response.
Five transgender women in the US military filed suit against Trump and the Pentagon this week over the ban.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court Wednesday, the five plaintiffs from the Air Force, Coast Guard and the Army said they faced uncertainty about their futures, including whether they would be fired or lose post-military and retirement benefits.
The lawsuit was filed against Trump, Mattis and various other senior military officials by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and GLAAD, a legal advocacy group.
All the unidentified "Jane Doe" plaintiffs were previously men who have transitioned to being female.
The number of transgender troops among America's 1.3 million active duty service members is small, with estimates ranging from between 1,320 and 15,000.
In the two weeks since Trump's tweets, the White House has still not provided the Pentagon with clear directives on how it should implement a transgender ban, so the current policy remains in place for now.