Top Republicans left in dark about Trump’s travel ban

The Trump White House did not consult top Republican leaders or key committee heads before the president’s unilateral action Friday barring travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries, multiple GOP sources said.

The offices of Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and other leaders were not shown the text of the executive order or asked to provide any input before Trump signed it at the Pentagon on live television, these sources said.

The order stranded hundreds of passengers at airports around the globe and sparked spontaneous protests across the U.S. over the weekend.

“We had no hand in drafting this and have had no briefings from the WH on how it works,” a senior GOP aide told The Hill Monday in an email.

{mosads}A second GOP aide said some leadership offices were informed an immigration-related order was coming down the pipe but were not given any details.

House Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul (R-Texas) and Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) — whose committees have jurisdiction over immigration issues — were left in the dark as well, GOP aides said.

“Some staff of the House Judiciary Committee were permitted [by Goodlatte] to offer their policy expertise to the Trump transition team about immigration law,” said a Judiciary source. “However, the Trump Administration is responsible for the final policy decisions contained in the executive order and its subsequent roll out and implementation.”

Similarly, a committee aide to Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) worked as a “legislative coordinator” on a Trump transition team that was involved in writing a draft executive order, a Grassley spokeswoman said. But the committee aide did not help write the final order and no details were shared with Grassley’s committee before Friday’s bumpy roll out.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn’s (R-Texas) office confirmed he was not consulted while the order was being drafted.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) also was not involved, according to a spokesman.

The White House’s handling of the executive order has prompted calls from Capitol Hill that Trump’s team needs to do a better job going forward of coordinating strategy and messaging.

“I think we need to work on better communication,” said House GOP Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) as she emerged from a leadership meeting Monday in the Speaker’s office.

Another GOP lawmaker close to leadership said he spent the weekend Googling articles and researching similarities between former President Obama and Trump’s refugee policies since the White House provided no talking points to allies on the Hill.

“There is concern that we need to have better coordination and at least have the essential information to make an argument in support,” the GOP lawmaker told The Hill. “That would be my biggest criticism of what happened over the weekend, because there are plenty of people who want to help.”

The assertions from Capitol Hill were at odds with White House claims that the administration had consulted top Republicans before Trump took up his presidential pen on Friday.

“As was told to you last night, there were staff from appropriate committees and leadership offices that were involved,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said earlier Monday.

Spicer declined to name which offices participated in the drafting of the order.

A senior administration official on Sunday told reporters that Republican offices and “top immigration experts” in Congress had a hand in drafting the executive order, an apparent reference to committee staff who worked with the transition.

“Republicans on Capitol Hill wrote it,” the official said.

Yet, even some Republican supporters of Trump’s action said lawmakers on Capitol Hill should have been given a heads up.

Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), for instance, said “implementation of the new policy could have been better communicated.”

Still, Carter, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee’s homeland security subpanel, was quick to praise the underlying policy as a sound way “to increase security measures and vetting processes.”

Trump and his team have said Friday’s executive order, part of a flurry of unilateral actions he’s taken since entering the White House 10 days ago, is necessary to protect Americans from “radical Islamic terrorism.”

It bars immigrants traveling from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days; halts refugees of all nationalities for 120 days; and halts refugees from Syria indefinitely.

Initially, the 90-day prohibition had been applied even to permanent legal residents of the U.S. –– the so-called green-card holders. That stipulation was relaxed by the Homeland Security Department Sunday night.

Still, the modification did nothing to quiet the outcry from Democrats, human rights advocates, immigrant rights supporters and thousands of protesters who took to the streets across the country over the weekend.

A number of Republicans have rushed to Trump’s defense, saying the tougher rules are simply a common-sense reform for ensuring the nation’s security. They’re emphasizing that the changes are only short-term.

“This action is temporary,” Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), former chairman of the Judiciary panel, said Monday. “The regular process will resume once security policies are updated over the next 90 days. That is what President Trump’s action does.”

But other Republicans aren’t so sure. Rep. Ileana Ros Lehtinen (R-Fla.) is criticizing the orders, warning that they might not be as short-term as Trump has said.

“I worry this temporary ban may become a permanent ban,” she told CNN Monday “People will say, ‘Gee, we’ve had these 90 days, these 120 days, and we’ve been kept safe, so let’s keep it up.’ When in fact that ban and prohibition would have nothing to do with keeping us safe.”

Jordain Carney contributed. Updated 11:27 p.m. 


Tags Bob Corker Bob Goodlatte Cathy McMorris Rodgers Chuck Grassley John Cornyn Paul Ryan

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