The Trump administration is moving to label the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization, according to a report from The New York Times.
The administration reportedly directed national security and diplomatic officials to place sanctions on the group after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi visited the White House earlier this month, officials familiar with the matter told the newspaper.
During a private conversation between the two leaders, Sisi reportedly urged Trump to join Egypt in designating the group a terror organization. Trump, according to the Times, told Sisi that the plan would make sense, which some officials said could be interpreted as a commitment.
Designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization would include economic and travel sanctions on companies and individuals that interact with it, although it is unclear how it would affect Americans and U.S. humanitarian organizations linked to the group.
White House press secretary Sarah HuckabeeSarah SandersTrump expected to resume rallies in June Andrew Giuliani planning run for New York governor Trump appears at Sarah Huckabee Sanders campaign event MORE Sanders acknowledged in a statement to the Times that the administration was looking into the designation.
“The president has consulted with his national security team and leaders in the region who share his concern, and this designation is working its way through the internal process,” Sanders said.
The Times reported that the push has caused debate within the Trump administration. National security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right Ex-Trump adviser Bolton defends Milley: 'His patriotism is unquestioned' MORE and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoChristie, Pompeo named co-chairs of GOP redistricting group America needs a new strategy for Pacific Island Countries Harris to hold fundraiser for McAuliffe ahead of Virginia governor's race MORE reportedly support the idea but the Pentagon and career national security staff, as well as diplomatic and legal experts, have voiced concerns.
The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 in Egypt and initially used violence in an effort to push for society to be governed by Islamic law, the Times noted. The organization renounced violence in 1970s and largely turned toward democratic efforts, although some branches and ex-members have engaged in forms of terrorism.
Officials told the Times that the criteria for the designation do not appear to fit the Brotherhood, which is a more loosely organized structure. The newspaper noted that it is often used as a moniker by political parties in different countries, such as Tunisia and Jordan.
Sisi has overseen a wide crackdown on dissent that has led to the detention of thousands of members of the Muslim Brotherhood. He helped lead a coup in 2013 to overthrow Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, who was a former Brotherhood leader.
The president of Egypt reportedly urged Trump’s predecessor to crack down on the Brotherhood, but President Obama’s administration refused, citing legal and policy concerns, according to the Times.