Trump ratchets up defense of immigrant ban as outrage mounts
He also cites President Obama as precedent for his action, then takes on Republican critics John McCain and Lindsey Graham. By NAHAL TOOSI and SEUNG MIN KIM
President Donald Trump on Sunday defended his executive order barring refugees and some legal immigrants from entering the United States, even as a top Cabinet official walked back part of the measure — signaling confusion and fissures within the 10-day-old administration.
“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,” Trump said in an afternoon statement that also cited what he described as precedent set by former President Barack Obama. “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.“
Trump — who also took the time Sunday to accuse Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham of “looking to start World War III” — and his aides struggled to stay on message as global outrage grew over the executive order. The directive, which Trump has cast as a national security imperative, effectively bars entry to the United States by people ranging from Iraqi translators to Syrian refugees to a British Olympian. It also has been interpreted to apply to legal U.S. permanent residents and many foreigners with multiple nationalities.
The confusing interpretations spurred Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to clarify that green card holders were indeed exempt from Trump’s broad order.
"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,” Kelly said in a statement Sunday evening. Some permanent residents were caught up in the weekend’s confusion as they attempted to return from overseas visits.
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