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

White House undercuts its own arguments with new Muslim ban

So much for “see you in court.” The White House quietly gave up on Donald Trump’s original Muslim ban after it failed spectacularly in the courts, paving the way for today’s rollout of a new version of the president’s executive order.
Citizens from the affected countries – Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, and Libya – will be subjected to a 90-day ban on travel to the United States. Iraq was previously listed among those nations, but was removed from this latest iteration of the travel ban after assurances from the Iraqi government of increased information sharing with the United States, a senior Department of Homeland Security official told reporters on Monday.

The order will go into effect on March 16, does not revoke existing visas approved before that date and does not explicitly apply to current lawful permanent residents and green card holders.

Visas revoked because of the original travel ban have been fully restored, according to the State Department.
Unlike most of Trump’s executive orders, the president did not host a signing ceremony today.

The Muslim Ban 2.0 – or 3.0 when one factors in the proposal Trump unveiled during the campaign – is going to be the basis for another international controversy, though it is different from its immediate predecessor in a variety of ways, which NBC News’ Ari Melber fleshed out this afternoon.

Note, for example, that legal U.S. residents with green cards are exempt – a point of serious contention when the other Muslim ban was first implemented – and Syrian refugees will no longer be held to a different standard than refugees from other countries. That said, the Trump administration’s new policy includes a 120-day suspension of the refugee program, regardless of country of origin.

While legal experts dig in, and we wait for inevitable litigation, one of the more important takeaways of today’s announcement is that Trump’s new Muslim ban, ostensibly signed out of concerns for national security, seems to have very little to do with national security.

When the president first announced his original policy, he and the White House characterized it as a necessary step to keep Americans safe – and the order could not wait. As we recently discussed, Stephen Miller told Fox News in late January, for example, “I think from a standpoint of national security, the most important thing was to roll out the order quickly and immediately.” The same day, Sean Spicer told MSNBC, “[T]here was a very short period time in which we had something execute that ensured that the people of the United States were safe…. What happened if we didn’t act and somebody was killed?”

A day earlier, Reince Priebus told CBS even a small delay in announcing the Muslim ban would have been dangerous, because terrorists “would just move up their travel plans.”

Last week, however, the White House delayed the unveiling of the new policy for public-relations reasons, and today’s executive order says the new approach won’t take effect until March 16 – which is a week from this Thursday.

Remember, in January, Trump declared, “If the ban were announced with a one week notice, the ‘bad’ would rush into our country during that week. A lot of bad ‘dudes’ out there!” Evidently, the president had no idea what he was talking about.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 3/2/17, 9:02 PM ET

Exclusive: DHS intel doc contradicts case for Trump's travel ban

Rachel Maddow reports on a Department of Homeland Security document obtained exclusively by The Rachel Maddow Show that shows that the national security justification for Donald Trump’s travel ban is not credible. Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief…
Rachel Maddow reports on a Department of Homeland Security document obtained exclusively by The Rachel Maddow Show that shows that the national security justification for Donald Trump’s travel ban is not credible. Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief…
This comes on the heels of a report from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis that said the proposed ban isn’t necessary for national security, and a Rachel Maddow Show exclusive last week that further undermined the White House’s rationale: DHS found that most foreign-born, U.S.-based violent extremists are likely not radicalized when they come to the U.S., but rather become radicalized after living in the U.S. for a number of years.

And then, of course, there’s the straightforward detail that Team Trump hasn’t even tried to refute since taking office: in the United States since 9/11, there have effectively been zero deadly attacks launched by people from these six countries.

In other words, this administration policy is about many things, but to believe it’s all about national security is to overlook the relevant details.

What will happen now? Court fights are inevitable – lawyers and legal scholars can speak to the likely outcomes with far greater authority than I can – and while the White House clearly took steps to “court-proof” the new policy, officials have said today’s executive order has “the same basic policy outcome” and is intended to “achieve the same goals” as the original policy.

Watch this space.