Just a week ago, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly tried to defend Donald Trump's Muslim ban by focusing on the importance of rhetoric. "It's not a travel ban, remember," the cabinet secretary told Fox News. "It's the travel pause." Similarly, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is on record telling reporters, "When we use words like 'travel ban,' that misrepresents what it is."
According to these officials' boss, they're completely wrong. The president's latest Twitter tantrum focused on the ongoing legal controversy surrounding Trump's executive orders, and in this case, the Republican said the opposite of what he was supposed to say:
"People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!"The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C. The Justice Dept. should ask for an expedited hearing of the watered down Travel Ban before the Supreme Court - & seek much tougher version!"In any event we are EXTREME VETTING people coming into the U.S. in order to help keep our country safe. The courts are slow and political!"
About a week ago, the Wall Street Journal reported that "a team of lawyers" may soon start reviewing Trump's social-media missives before they're shared with the world. Clearly, that hasn't happened yet -- because the president's tweets this morning are exactly the sort of messages his attorneys would try to block.
First, Trump has already proven to be his own worst enemy, especially when it comes to his proposed Muslim ban, with courts pointing to his own public comments when ruling against him. By insisting that his second Muslim ban is just a "watered-down" version of the original, the president is effectively making his opponents' argument for them.
Neal Katyal, one of the top attorneys challenging the White House's policy, noted this morning that it's "kinda odd to have the defendant in Hawaii v Trump acting as our co-counsel."
Second, it doesn't make sense for the president to whine about the Justice Department. After all, it's his Justice Department. Trump's the one who signed the executive orders, not the DOJ.
And third, no one seems to understand why the White House is still pursuing this. The original plan, as articulated by the administration, was to put a temporary ban in place while officials spent a few months crafting new vetting procedures. Even some Republicans are now conceding that the time the White House requested has already elapsed.
"It's been four months since I said they needed four months to put that in place," Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of the Intelligence Committee, said yesterday. "I think you can do that without a travel ban and hopefully we are."
The fact that White House officials aren't resigning en masse today is itself amazing.