President Donald Trump signs an executive order on extreme vetting during an event at the Pentagon in Washington, Friday, Jan. 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Susan Walsh

Trump's Muslim ban causes turmoil within the administration

— Updated
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked yesterday about a five-year-old Iranian boy who was detained over the weekend in response to Donald Trump's new Muslim ban. Spicer replied, "To assume that just because of someone's age or gender or whatever that they don't pose a threat would be wrong."

He wasn't kidding: Spicer believes the strongest nation on the planet has reason to be suspicious of small children. Several years after Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) added the phrase "terror babies" to the political lexicon, the Republican fear of little kids from other countries appears to be intensifying.

In the same briefing, Trump's press secretary told reporters, in reference to the deadly shooting at the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Center over the weekend, "It's a terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant and why the president is taking steps to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to our nation's safety and security."

If Spicer was somehow suggesting the Muslim ban is intended to prevent attacks such as the one in Quebec, that's outrageous: Muslims were the victims in the shooting, which was allegedly perpetrated by a young, white Christian man.

Spicer went on to defend Trump's Muslim ban by making repeated references to President Obama's 2011 policy temporarily delaying visas for Iraqis, which is wildly misleading given the fact that the two policies have very little in common. It's also hilariously ironic: Team Trump is effectively saying, "Obama let a bunch of dangerous people into the country, so we have to do the exact opposite of what he did," which they're then following with, "We're just doing what Obama did, so our policy must be sound and uncontroversial."

All of this, of course, came before the White House felt compelled to fire the acting attorney general because she questioned the legality of Trump's policy.

For the Trump administration at an institutional level, the problems run deeper. The Associated Press reported:

At least three top national security officials -- Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Rex Tillerson, who is awaiting confirmation to lead the State Department -- have told associates they were not aware of details of the directive until around the time Trump signed it. Leading intelligence officials were also left largely in the dark, according to U.S. officials.
The reference to Kelly is of particular interest, in part because of his role in implementing the controversial policy, and in part because he's clearly not pleased. The Wall Street Journal added this morning:
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has clashed with the White House over staffing and other decisions in recent days, people familiar with the matter said, leaving the agency without a second-in-command as it tried to institute a new travel ban during a chaotic weekend at the nation's airports. [...]

That tension didn't take long to materialize. Mr. Kelly hasn't been able to name the deputy he wants at the agency, people familiar with the matter said, and he fought off attempts by the White House to put Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state known as a hard-liner on immigration, into the position.

The fact that Trump and the West Wing kept Kelly out of the loop when crafting the policy he has to implement only makes matters worse. Rex Tillerson, who's likely to soon be confirmed as Secretary of State, reportedly told the White House he's "baffled" as to why the president's aides have excluded him from the process surrounding the executive order.

So what are we left with? The only people who appear to love Trump's new policy are terrorists. In the meantime, the administration is divided; it's peddling ridiculous talking points; it's losing court fights; it's alienating people around the world; it's inspiring progressive activism; and it's facing crisis conditions at the Justice Department.

All of this in support of a misguided policy that, by all appearances, makes Americans less safe.