True or false? On the one hand, here’s John Kelly this morning insisting that the president’s measure is strongly supported by department officials and that they knew it was coming.
— CNN (@CNN) January 31, 2017
Three days after Trump laid out an executive order temporarily banning individuals from seven Muslim-majority nations from traveling to the United States, lawyers were still struggling to reach clients being questioned at U.S. ports of entry. Meanwhile, customs agents were handling entries for green-card holders on a case-by-case basis, and European governments were giving conflicting instructions to people with dual nationalities — both topics on which the Trump administration had sent decidedly mixed signals.
The roll out of Trump’s order “was as chaotic on the inside as it looked on the outside,” one career official at the Department of Homeland Security told POLITICO, adding that “nobody knew anything” before the White House announced the policy Friday night.
The official blamed much of the confusion on the order’s vague and imprecise language. “They just don’t seem to even know how to write a government policy,” said the official, adding that “even 12 hours worth of legal review” would have cleared up many of the problems.
Either Kelly knew what was coming and neglected to brief his troops, which would be a serious lapse of duty, or Kelly wasn’t given sufficient notice to brief them and is now being a good soldier for his boss by claiming this whole process ran very smoothly at DHS. Which do you suppose the truth is?
Whatever the answer, Mike Allen of Axios reports that it might now fall to DHS to clean up Trump’s mess a little more by issuing “guidelines” to make implementation easier. Kelly’s already done that in one important respect when he issued a statement declaring that it’s in the national interest for green-card holders to be admitted to the United States. That directive had the effect of overturning the travel ban’s application to U.S. permanent residents. Sounds like more in that vein may be on the way:
Republican sources tell us that the Department of Homeland Security may issue “implementation guidance” that would allow for softening, and even policy changes, to President Trump’s travel restrictions on migrants. The White House insists that any further guidance wouldn’t constitute a walk-back.
But the internal conversation, led by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, reflects the widespread view among top Republicans that the current chaotic situation — beset with blame-casting, backstabbing and unintended consequences — is untenable.
An official at one of the top firms in corporate America emails: “The pressure from inside these companies is intense. One of my deputies spent all day with a relative who needs to go back to Iran to see her mom who is dying. Worried she might get stuck but had to go. Lots of needless worrying. They have been Americans since the Shah left.”
It’s interesting that Kelly was sent out today to speak in the administration’s defense given the reporting lately about him not being looped in on the travel ban and the story in the Journal this morning about him rejecting border hawk Kris Kobach as his number two at DHS. Kobach is a favorite of Team Trump but Kelly resisted. Maybe, given the friction between him and the president’s inner circle, he figured taking the lead on administration PR efforts this afternoon on their behalf was a way to smooth things over.
Here’s O’Reilly on last night’s show nudging his pal Donald on how to make his travel ban a little more palatable. You know it’s a mess when Fox News is scrambling to get Trump to change course. In fact, according to Allen and Axios, a memo from the Murdoch brothers went out at Fox News yesterday noting “We deeply value diversity and believe immigration is an essential part of America’s strength.” Worth mentioning in light of O’R’s commentary here.