After delays last week because things were going so darn well, Donald Trump has signed a new Muslim ban. The new version of the ban includes Syria, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, and Libya, but drops Iraq after a lot of embarrassing stories about Iraqis who were endangered by their work with the U.S. military being caught by the first, poorly structured and implemented ban. The revised version of the ban is also expected to exclude green card holders and to remove the exception for religious minorities.
Most of the changes seem to be designed to reduce the number of people who have standing to sue, making it tougher to attack the ban in court.
At an appearance on Monday morning, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III delivered remarks on the new ban. Notably, the remarks from the secretarial three allowed for no questions from the press. Even more notable, Donald Trump did not appear to claim his new baby. Unlike every other executive order he’s signed, this one appears to have happened out of public view and without ceremony.
Tillerson called the measure “a vital measure for strengthening national security” though there was still no evidence that the order, or the lack thereof, made any difference in security. And while the order itself may have been revised to remove any mention of religion, Tillerson made it clear that the intent was to stop Trump’s favorite phrase, “radical Islamic terrorists.” Tillerson also claimed that a “concentration” on rules and “intense review” indicated ways they could vet immigrants from Iraq, accounting for its removal from the list, rather than the embarrassing stories about allies shut out.
Sessions declared it the Department of Justice’s top priority to protect United States from threats to national security, and that the department would “defend the lawful orders of the president.” He also made a claim that he believes the first Muslim ban was among those “lawful orders.”
Perhaps the most notable claim made during the no-questions gaggle was that terrorists frequently mean to use refugee programs to infiltrate the United States. Sessions claimed both that “we know that many people” who have tried to enter the country for the purposes of terrorism in this way, and that “over 300 people who came as refugees” are under investigation by the FBI. Sessions hinted that Trump issued this order out of special knowledge, noting that he gets briefings on terrorism “on a regular basis” and gave a list of the intelligence agencies—the same briefings that Trump regularly skips and the same agencies he constantly derides.
Kelly started off with a history of DHS’ origins after 9/11, saying that moment “taught us that homeland security must be our top priority” and that the world is “more dangerous” than it was at that time. Though he defended Trump’s order, Kelly launched into a preemptive defense of DHS and DHS personnel that showed he recognized that the new order was going to lead to a lot of uncomfortable, ugly situations. “We do not make the law, but are sworn to enforce it. We have no other option.”