US President Donald J. Trump after a group photo on the second day of the G7 Summit at the Hotel San Domenico in Taormina, Sicily, Italy, 27 May 2017.
Angelo Carconi

Trump tries, fails to explain the basics of his latest travel ban

Donald Trump's proposed Muslim ban has gone through a few iterations, and this week, the president unveiled the latest version of his controversial policy -- which now includes non-Muslim countries.

In a move so obvious I have no idea why the White House didn't think of it sooner, Team Trump added to the list of Muslim nations with banned or restricted travel visas, this time including North Korea and Venezuela to the mix. This will make it at least marginally easier for the administration's attorneys to say it isn't a Muslim ban, Trump's campaign promises notwithstanding.

But the new policy still raises plenty of questions, and the issue came up briefly yesterday when the president spoke to reporters on the White House South Lawn. From the official transcript:

REPORTER: First of all, can you explain to us why Sudan was removed [from the travel ban list]? And second of all, how does the travel ban work in North Korea that doesn't allow their people out of the country?

TRUMP: Well, the people -- yeah, the people allowed -- certain countries -- but we can add countries very easily and we can take countries away.

REPORTER: What did Sudan do right?

TRUMP: And as far as the travel ban is concerned, whatever it is, I want the toughest travel ban you can have. So I'll see you in Indiana.

Oh. So, in other words, Trump unveiled an important international policy this week, and he hasn't the foggiest idea what it is. The questions that came up yesterday weren't obscure policy details; they were the kind of questions a competent president should've been able to field about his own policy two days after its unveiling.

Keep in mind, this isn't exactly a new area of interest for Trump. He presented his ideas for a Muslim ban during the campaign and he unveiled the first iteration of the policy in January, soon after taking office. In other words, he's had plenty of time -- including eight months as president -- to get up to speed on his own policy.

And yet, asked some pretty straightforward questions about this, the president could barely speak in complete sentences.

That's a shame, because there are questions that deserve answers. Slate noted this week, for example, that Trump's decision to add Chad to the ban is "a headscratcher."

Yes, jihadi groups including Boko Haram, and affiliates of ISIS and al-Qaida operate in the central African country, but groups like these also control territory in countries such as Nigeria, Egypt, Afghanistan, and a number of other countries not on the list. In fact, the most recent State Department Country Reports on Terrorism was mostly positive about Chad's counterterrorism efforts. The country has hosted U.S.-organized military exercises and has received significant U.S. military aid.

Even Trump's order describes Chad as an "important and valuable counterterrorism partner," though it notes that it "does not adequately share public-safety and terrorism-related information and fails to satisfy at least one key risk criterion." It's hard to imagine that it's the only country that could be described that way.

So why was Chad suddenly added to the list? It's probably best not to ask Trump -- because he has no idea.