President Donald Trump issued his most substantial defense of his 'extreme vetting' executive order on Sunday afternoon, saying in a statement from the White House that he's not banning Muslims from entering the U.S. – and laying much of the grief at former president Barack Obama's feet.
'My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months,' Trump said of his own order, which is slated to expire in 90 days. Obama's directive, carried out in response to a specific terror threat, affected only refugees. Trump's order is broader, including people from seven countries who want to emigrate to the U.S.
Trump also said Sunday said that those nations – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia Sudan, Syria and Yemen – 'are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror.'
'To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion – this is about terror and keeping our country safe. There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order.'
White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and press secretary Sean Spicer, at times flustered on-camera, struggled to defend the president's policy with some of the same messages during appearances Sunday on political talk shows.
'What people need to understand is that 325,000 foreign travelers came into the United States,' Priebus said, referring to Saturday. 'About 109 of those people were retained – detained for further questioning because they came from the identified seven countries that the Obama administration and both houses of Congress have identified as being countries that harbor and train terrorists.'
Trump himself refused to back down as protests flooded a few major airports. On Twitter, his preferred mode of instant communication with voters, he reiterated his belief that America needs to strengthen its borders.
'Our country needs strong borders and extreme vetting, NOW. Look what is happening all over Europe and, indeed, the world - a horrible mess!' the president tweeted.
As Trump was tweeting, senior White House official Reince Priebus said on NBC's 'Meet the Press' that one of the Democrats' main points of contention – a fear that the executive order made lawful permanent residents, those holding 'green cards,' eligible for the same special screening as first-time visitors.
'The executive order doesn't affect green card holders moving forward,' Priebus said. But that's only because they were already subject to extra scrutiny if they arrive from a terror hotbed.
'If they have a person that's traveling back and forth to Libya or Somalia or Yemen, I would suspect within their discretion, they might ask a few more questions at JFK or some other airport when someone's coming back and forth within their discretionary authority as a customs and border patrol agent,' he said.
'And what I'm saying is I would suspect that most Americans would agree that that might be a good thing to do.'
Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly declared the entry of lawful permanent residents, also known as green card holders, to be of national interest on Sunday evening.
'In applying the provisions of the president's executive order, I hereby deem the entry of lawful permanent residents to be in the national interest,' he said in a statement.
'Accordingly, absent the receipt of significant derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare, lawful permanent resident status will be a dispositive factor in our case-by-case determinations.'
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP'S SUNDAY STATEMENT:
The president issued a statement Sunday afternoon, defiantly defending his decision to implement an 'extreme vetting' program affecting people arriving in the United States from seven of the world's 53 Muslim-majority countries:
'America is a proud nation of immigrants and we will continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression, but we will do so while protecting our own citizens and border. America has always been the land of the free and home of the brave. We will keep it free and keep it safe, as the media knows, but refuses to say.'My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months. The seven countries named in the Executive Order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror.'To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion - this is about terror and keeping our country safe. There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order.'We will again be issuing visas to all countries once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days. I have tremendous feeling for the people involved in this horrific humanitarian crisis in Syria. My first priority will always be to protect and serve our country, but as President I will find ways to help all those who are suffering.' source
Kellyanne Conway was also doing the rounds on Sunday morning talk shows, and told 'Fox News Sunday' host Chris Wallace that 90-day slowdown was needed to stop another September 11-style attack.
'It's temporary,' she said of the ban, downplaying the affect it could have of separating families.
'And it’s just circumstantial in terms of whether you are one of those 300 or some who were already on an aircraft or trying to get to an aircraft, as opposed to the 3,000 children who will be forever more separated from their parents who perished on 9/11.'
Spicer said on ABC's 'This Week' that the White House chose not to give front-line border security agencies a heads-up about the coming order, because doing so posed a threat to national security.
Terrorists, he hinted, might have seen the advance warning as a reason to flood the U.S. before the policy took effect Friday afternoon.
But 'the people that needed to know knew,' Spicer said.
'What we couldn't do was telegraph our position ahead of time to ensure that people flooded in before that happened, before it went into place,' he added. 'So the appropriate leadership was notified and cables were being sent out through the state Department as we speak.'
Trump also took aim at The New York Times, whose front page Sunday was dominated by stories about airport protests. 'Somebody with aptitude and conviction should buy the FAKE NEWS and failing @nytimes and either run it correctly or let it fold with dignity!' Trump raged.
|Comment||See all comments|