Over the course of a week, the White House clarified on several occasions President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration.
The White House has defended its rollout of that order, which temporarily suspended immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. But some former counterterrorism officials have criticized the new administration’s actions as poor planning or part of an effort to deliberately sow confusion.
Whatever the reason, the quick rollout required the White House to clarify several times whom the order affects and how it is enacted. Here’s a quick look at how things changed:
- Friday, January 27: White House issues executive order.
- Sunday, January 29: White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told “Meet the Press” that green card holders, who are legal permanent residents, are not subject to the ban. Secretary Kelly, however, indicated in a statement that green card holders would be allowed entry into the U.S. on a case-by-case basis.
- Tuesday, January 31: State Department and the Department of Homeland Security said people with dual citizenship would be allowed into the U.S. if the passport they presented at the border was not from one of the restricted countries. That reversed a statement from Saturday, which said people of dual nationality from one of the seven banned countries would not be allowed into the country for 90 days without a visa.
- On the same day, Tuesday, January 31: The Department of Homeland Security announced Iraqi interpreters for the U.S. military with Special Immigrant Visas (S.I.V.) can enter the country.
- Wednesday, February 1: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said green card holders are completely exempt from the ban and do not require a waiver.
- Thursday, February 2: The White House amended the order to allow Iraqi interpreters into the country.
- Friday, February 3: After a lawsuit from the states of Washington and Minnesota, Seattle federal judge James Robart issues a temporary restraining order halting the ban nationwide.
- Saturday, February 4: The Justice Department asks the San-Francisco based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to reverse Robart’s decision and reinstate the ban.
- Sunday, February 5: The court denies that request.
- Tuesday, February 7: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th circuit will hear arguments at 3 p.m. PST (6 p.m. EST) from Justice Department lawyers about why the ban on Mr. Trump’s executive order should be lifted. Lawyers from Seattle and Minnesota will also have a chance to present their cases.
Hours before Tuesday’s court appearance, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly continued to defend the executive order. But in a testimony during a House Homeland Security hearing on America’s borders, he also said he should have delayed its implementation.
“It was released late on a Friday, we knew it was going to be released that day. The desire was to get it out. The thinking was to get it out quick so that potentially, people coming here to harm us would not take advantage of some period of time that they could jump on an airplane and get here–or get here in other ways. So, that was the thinking,” he said. “In retrospect, I should have–this is all on me by the way — I should have delayed it just a bit so that I could talk to members of Congress, particularly leaders of committees like this to prepare them for what was coming.”
A temporary restraining order on the ban issued Friday by a Washington state federal judge prompted Trump to lash out at the judge on Twitter over the weekend. On Monday, Trump took to Twitter to urge the court to “act fast.”
“What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.?” the President tweeted Saturday morning.
Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 5, 2017
His words are drawing criticism from former senior government officials in both Republican and Democratic administrations.
“It is clear from the President’s tweets that he barely, if at all, understands the way the U.S. government works or understands the separation of power,” former Under Secretary of Defense Eric Edelman told the NewsHour in an email.
Edelman, who served under President George W. Bush, was among some former government officials who said the implementation of this order revealed a novice administration with a disregard for the way the government operates.
“Whether you agree or disagree with the order itself, the implementation has been chaotic and amateurish,” said Nicholas Burns, a career diplomat who served in government for 27 years.
“I can’t remember a presidential executive order that is important for Americans that has been so roiled in politics,” he told the NewsHour.
“What the [executive order] rollout showed was a lack of experience that created a rush job of putting this out,” Roger Cressey, director for Transnational Threats on the National Security Council staff from 1999 to 2001, told the NewsHour.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said on Tuesday he supports the intention of the order but “regrettably, the rollout was confusing.”
White House policy director Stephen Miller and chief strategist Steve Bannon largely coordinated the efforts and did not inform GOP leadership about the order, Politico reported.
“This should not have been planned by three people in the White House,” Nicholas Burns said. “That’s not the way to govern,” he added.
Other media outlets reported State Department and the Department of Homeland Security were caught off guard by the order.
Last week, Kelly disputed those reports, before clarifying Tuesday that the process should have also included a conversation with Congress.
“We had high level government lawyers from across the interagency, to include Homeland Security, that were involved in the drafting of it,” Kelly said at a news briefing. “So we knew it was coming. It wasn’t a surprise.”
Department of Homeland Security secretary John Kelly fielded questions from reporters last week about the executive order and its implementation. Watch the news conference in the player above
The White House also defended its decision not to provide the public advance notice of its plans. They said terrorists who planned to carry out attacks on the U.S. would have expedite their travel plans in order to enter the country before the ban was put in place.
Cressey called that defense “ludicrous.”
“That argument presupposes that the processes that are in place right now are so lax that a potential terrorist can advance their travel schedule and fall through the cracks,” he said. “That is simply not true.”
Reinterpretations of the ban in the last week have also caused some former security officials to question whether the administration’s apparent disarray was, in fact, deliberate.
“Either the confusion and disarray of the rollout was a function of inexperience, understaffing and confusion about lines of responsibility, or this is part of a broader strategy of ‘shock and awe’ which seeks to reassure President Trump’s political base and discomfiting the government bureaucracy and the ‘elites’ which the Administration has described as the enemies or opposition to its ‘populist’ agenda,” Edelman told the NewsHour in an email.
The White House is standing behind the rollout. Trump said the executive order was “working out very nicely” before the judge issued the restraining order.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 30, 2017
I have instructed Homeland Security to check people coming into our country VERY CAREFULLY. The courts are making the job very difficult!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 5, 2017
White House officials echoed that sentiment.
On ABC News’ “Powerhouse Politics” podcast, Miller said, “it is hard to envision a smoother rollout from an implementation standpoint.”
Steven Simon, former National Security Council senior director for the Middle East and North Africa under President Barack Obama, said those views indicate policy details came secondary to the political statement the order made.
“To the extent problems lingered, the White House could blame them on a recalcitrant bureaucracy that refused to get with the program,” Simon, who also served in a counterrorism role in the Clinton administration, said in an email to the NewsHour.
“But the key point was in the political impact of the theatrical performance,” he wrote.
The corrections and even the temporary restraining order, from a political perspective, are completely irrelevant, Simon said. For Trump’s base, the practical impact still stands no matter how the order is modified.
PBS NewsHour’s Pamela Kirkland contributed reporting for this story.
This article has been updated to clarify the length of Burns’ career in government.