Get ready for a subject changer. The long-awaited replacement executive order temporarily suspending entry for refugees and visa applicants from a handful of high-risk countries will get signed today by Donald Trump — but won’t be effective immediately. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told Fox & Friends that “six or seven” points of clarification have been added, one country has been dropped, and it won’t take effect until a week from Thursday:
— Fox News (@FoxNews) March 6, 2017
“This is a very important week in this White House where the president is going to continue to act on, along with the Congress, major pieces of his legislative and executive agenda,” Conway said Monday morning on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends.”
“That includes a new executive order today…and what’s different about it, it has an effective date of March 16, and there are the legal permanent residents were always excluded from it but that’s made much more clear now,” she continued.
As expected, Iraq has been removed from the list of countries affected by the EO, which Conway credits to better processing by Iraqi officials in the past seven weeks since the first EO was issued. Fox reported earlier in the morning on some of the other changes:
New details on President Trump's new immigration order – Iraq removed from the 'no travel' list & Syrian refugees no longer banned pic.twitter.com/wNYAn9AOCr
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) March 6, 2017
Two changes seem especially significant. First, those who already have visas will be allowed to enter the US, a move that will avoid the scenes of mass confusion in airports that the media highlighted to significant negative effect on the White House. The new EO only applies to visa applications not yet approved.
The second and perhaps more interesting change is the grace period of eleven days, assuming that Trump signs off on the EO today as Conway announces. The Trump administration got heavy criticism for not having a grace period on the first EO, and defended themselves by saying a week-long grace period would have allowed the “bad guys” to game the system and enter in the transition. Now we have an eleven-day grace period weeks after the announcement of a “travel pause,” which makes that argument a little weaker. (For that matter, so does the decision to put off the EO after Trump’s speech last week in order to keep from stepping on the rare positive news cycle it generated.)
Conway frames this announcement as a way of scolding the media about their obsession with scandal rather than the policy work being done by the White House. That’s a fair complaint, but the president himself threw gasoline on that particular fire all weekend, too. If this is “a very important week in the White House” because of Trump’s desire to work on policy, perhaps Conway et al can convince the president to stop talking about everything else.