By Ted Hesson
June 06, 2017
MESSAGING BREAKDOWN ON TRAVEL BAN: Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly will testify this morning before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee about the White House’s fiscal year 2018 budget proposal, which calls for, among other things, $1.6 billion for a border wall. But the committee may find it difficult to ignore the elephant in the room — President Donald Trump’s weirdly self-destructive tweetstorm yesterday about his revised travel ban, which blocks temporarily the issuance of visas from six countries and suspends the refugee resettlement program.
Trump let ‘er rip Monday morning. “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 president tweeted at 5:25 a.m., contradicting months of administration messaging. “It’s not a travel ban,” Press Secretary Sean Spicer had said in the White House daily briefing, Jan. 31. “A ban would mean people can’t get in.” Four months later, Kelly had told Fox News’s Chris Wallace: “It’s not a travel ban, remember. It’s a travel pause.” Now it’s a travel ban, which comes as a relief to those of us who were calling it that all along. The ban remains largely blocked by federal courts, but the Trump administration has asked the Supreme Court to take the case. Assuming it does, Trump’s tweets have done some damage to his case.
“The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C.,” Trump tweeted, inviting the high court to agree with his critics that both versions carried the same anti-Muslim intent that candidate Trump articulated in Dec. 2015. “The Justice Dept. should ask for an expedited hearing of the watered down Travel Ban before the Supreme Court – & seek much tougher version!” Trump elaborated. For good measure, Trump took a swipe at London Mayor Sadiq Khan, a Muslim, tweeting, “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’” When the press reported that Trump had it wrong — Khan had been advising Londoners not to be alarmed by the police (“Londoners will see an increased police presence today and over the course of the next few days. There’s no reason to be alarmed”) — Trump doubled down. “Pathetic excuse by London Mayor Sadiq Khan who had to think fast on his ‘no reason to be alarmed’ statement,” Trump tweeted. “MSM is working hard to sell it!”
Josh Blackman, professor at Houston’s South Texas College of Law, marveled: “The President is his own worst enemy and quite possibly the worst client the [Solicitor General] has ever had.” Neal Kaytal, who represents the state of Hawaii against DOJ on the travel ban, tweeted: “@OmarJadwat &I are pretty gd attys. But query whether btr to cede our 30min at lectern to the deft to make case for us.” George Conway, husband to Kellyanne and, until recently, a contender for a top Justice Department post, attempted a Twitter intervention: “These tweets may make some ppl feel better, but they certainly won’t help OSG get 5 votes in SCOTUS, which is what actually matters. Sad.” Did Trump heed Conway’s plea to clam up? Of course not. Instead, he continued raging into the evening like Lear on the heath: “That’s right, we need a TRAVEL BAN for certain DANGEROUS countries, not some politically correct term that won’t help us protect our people!” More from POLITICO’s Josh Gerstein here. Today’s hearing with Kelly is at 10 a.m., Dirksen 342.
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