In President Donald Trump’s first week in office, he signed a number of executive orders that shifted policies on health care, immigration, oil, reproductive rights, federal hiring and trade. NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss the effects of Trump’s first week and the response from politicians on both sides of the aisle.
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HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR:
President Trump is giving his chief political strategist a seat on the National Security Council. Steve Bannon's appointment is part of an NSC shakeup that reduces the role of the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence. Their attendance at meetings of the NSC Principals Committee will now be optional, according to the Trump executive order issued yesterday.
Today, Arizona Senator John McCain called the elevation of Bannon, a one-time Navy officer, quote, "radical" and said he was concerned about a diminished role for the joint chiefs.
"NewsHour Weekend's" Jeff Greenfield joins me now from Santa Barbara, California, to discuss the political fallout of the Trump executive order and other actions the president has taken during his first ten days in office.
JEFF GREENFIELD, NEWSHOUR WEEKEND:
So, Jeff, let's separate out these legal issues from the political ones. What — how significant of a political week has this been? Yes, you're quite right about that. Legally, some people have argued that the president has very wide latitude to determine who does and who does not gain entry to the United States. Jonathan Turley at George Washington says, who doesn't like this plan at all, says it might be legal. Others just said it violates the 1965 immigration reform.
But whatever the legalities, politically, it's a different story. But one that I think requires some subtle distinctions. Clearly, the image of Syrian Christians being thrown back on a plane and being deported out of the country, a contractor from Iraq who risked his life to help the United States military being put in handcuffs, that's not the message that the White House wanted, nor does it like the fact that a fair number of Republicans in Congress, national security experts who served in both Republican and Democratic administrations are saying this is almost a recruiting message for ISIS, like the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.
But I think the other part of this is that to Trump's core supporters what this signals is we are going to do what we promised you we were going to do. We're going to crack down very hard on all kinds of people seeking to come into this country. We want to protect you even if it means barring a student from coming home or separating families.
So, I think when you ask the politics of it, it's a difference between what the traditional political establishment, if you will, is hearing and what Trump supporters are hearing. How big of a departure from that tradition and the norms is this? GREENFIELD: I think that's probably the bigger story of — this executive order was not vetted, to use the president's term about refugees, with the Office of Legal Counsel. Apparently, it was not walked past the Department of Homeland Security or the State Department to ask, what are the repercussions of this going to be? In addition of which, if the press reports are right, Homeland Security pushed back on the idea that you're going to affect people with green cards. These are legal residents of the United States and the White House said, nope, it applies to them, too.
But I think the broader point is this is telling us once again how the Trump White House intends to govern, which is why I think the news about the National Security Council reshuffling may be a much bigger story ultimately than the travel ban.
And, you know, they did walk back the green card thing earlier today on the Sunday morning talk shows. Let's talk about that, that shuffle in the National Security Council. Why is that so significant?
Well, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that's the highest ranking military official in the United States, is no longer automatically guaranteed a seat at the table for so the called principals meeting. That's when the big shots gather. That's unprecedented.
Even more unprecedented, Steve Bannon, the president's senior political strategist who came over from Breitbart news to the campaign and now the White House, he is going to be included in all of those National Security Council meetings. Now, I don't think there's any precedent for that. George W. Bush did not send Karl Rove into that meeting. President Obama did not send David Axelrod into that meeting.
And it seems to say once again, that this White House is not playing by the traditional rules of the game, that they're perfectly prepared to annoy or even concern the establishment. Don't listen to what the mainstream media is going to tell you about this. We are doing what we said we were going to do and that's the message we want you to take from this.
All right. Jeff Greenfield, thank you for that insight and as always, joining us from Santa Barbara today. GREENFIELD: Thank you.