Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban Happened Without GOP Leaders Even Knowing About It
Donald Trump has been in office for less than two full weeks, and there is already incredible fallout from the executive orders he’s signed thus far. His controversial immigration policy banning travel to the United States from seven of the world’s most predominantly Muslim countries has elicited massive blowback from both politicians and citizens alike, including nationwide protests at airports and public statements of dissent from State Department officials. As it turns out, despite the “Muslim ban” being one of the biggest stories in the news today, much of it was reportedly crafted in secret, without Republican leaders being given any prior knowledge to its existence – let alone its sweeping implications for Islamic immigrants and Muslim Americans.
According to Politico, the drafting of the executive order in question was done by senior staffers on the House Judiciary Committee, a standing house of the House of Representatives whose responsibilities include overseeing the administration of justice within the federal courts, administrative agencies and Federal law enforcement entities. However, as the shocking report details, GOP leadership was not included in the process of developing and drafting the now infamous EO signed by Donald Trump. Essentially, this points to a troubling lack of communication between the White House (where the executive branch of the U.S. government operates) and Capitol Hill (home to Congress and the legislative branch). Even more troubling is that it confirms only a small fraction of Capitol Hill employees were aware of the immigration law, which many are calling unconstitutional in its very nature.
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In a statement cited by Politico, a House Judiciary Committee aide said they were “permitted to offer their policy expertise to the Trump transition team about immigration law,” but ultimately placed the onus of the EO in question on the president. “The Trump Administration is responsible for the final policy decisions contained in the executive order and its subsequent roll-out and implementation.” Nevertheless, it remains a great concern that such a sweeping piece of legislation could make it to the president’s desk without key Republican players knowing about it, let alone laying eyes on it. Apparently, what allowed such a misstep to take place are nondisclosure agreements signed by committee aides. “Trump’s transition operation forced its staff to sign these agreements, but it would be unusual to extend that requirement to congressional employees,” writes Politico. Furthermore, “it’s extremely rare for administration officials to circumvent Republican leadership and work directly with congressional committee aides.” But because of the expertise in immigration policy some of the House Judiciary Committee staffers have, it seems circumventing was allowed in this case.
Contributing to the environment in which such a legislative hiccup could take place is the fact that the administration is “understaffed and Trump is impatient,” according to former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich. He says the administration should have given “people a heads up a week or so out and get them on the same page,” but argues there is a natural learning curve that comes with being a newly minted Washington, D.C. staffer.
“GOP leaders received no advance warning or briefings from the White House or Judiciary staff on what the executive order would do or how it would be implemented,” so instead, “Republicans on the Hill spent the entire weekend scrambling to find out what was going on, who was involved and how it was that they were caught so flat-footed.” Though the image of scrambling legislators running around wondering how something like this could have happened is perhaps a bit amusing, the implications are not. “The fumbled roll-out serves as a cautionary tale to Trump officials who decide to go it alone in enacting controversial policies without help from Congress. Indeed, the lack of consultation has set off a wave of resentment on Capitol Hill,” Politico argues. The immigration laws are being called “very rushed” and allowed to go into effect without first being shown to “the people who have to execute the policy.” As an anonymous congressional source says, “because that’s the case, they probably didn’t think of or care about how this would be executed in the real world.”
Due to its being intentionally kept quiet, the EO was prevented from being studied by House Homeland Security panels, some of the most qualified experts on immigration policy who could have vetted the order for “problems — such as the issue with green card holders that caused authorized U.S. immigrants to be threatened with deportation at airports.” As has been documented on the news and across social media, many were indeed unlawfully held for hours upon arriving in the United States when the executive order went into effect, even those who were qualified to enter the country and in a few cases, even American citizens were questioned. On January 27, when the immigration ban went into effect, reports of such trouble reportedly started to surface immediately. But, because of the way in which the executive order was carried out, lawmakers “frantically called leadership offices and committees staff to ask how to respond,” Politico reports. Now in full “damage control” mode, GOP leadership staffers have been forced to “pick up the slack by emphasizing that the ban was not a prohibition on Muslims,” the best they could do, as “the administration ignored their requests for briefings and more information.”
So who coordinated the secretive yet disruptive roll-out of the immigration executive order? According to Politico, White House policy director Stephen Miller and Trump’s senior strategist Stephen Bannon are responsible. However, in an update to Politico’s original report (which ran on January 30), Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (a Republican from Virginia) is also being looked at as having played an integral role in the formulation of this plan. “Goodlatte tried to calm fellow Republicans who were incensed to learn that some of his aides helped craft Trump’s immigration directive without telling him or GOP leaders about it,” Politico reported on January 31. However, he did not make any public statement regarding the kerfuffle, and aides involved still “refused to say how specifically the staffers contributed to the executive order,” or “why they did not tell Republican leaders about their work.” In an apparent attempt to pacify those questioning him and the aides he’s purported to oversee, Goodlatte told lawmakers that “his aides merely gave policy advice and did not know anything about the timing of the executive order or its final contents.”
Similar to the statement made by the aforementioned House Judiciary Committee aide, Goodlatte has kicked the ball down to the Trump Administration, saying that despite the aides giving advice, “the final decision was made at the highest levels of the Trump administration… My staff had no control of the language contained in the President’s executive order, the timing of the announcement, the rollout and subsequent implementation, and the coordination with Congress.” However, those words seem to be in direct conflict with the White House’s statement on the matter; a senior administration official has been quoted as saying that the order was written by Republicans on Capitol Hill, with top drafters representing immigration experts also on Capitol Hill.
Goodlatte’s comments appear to conflict with those made by the White House. A senior administration official told reporters on Sunday that “Republicans on Capitol Hill wrote” the order and “the top drafters of this were the top immigration experts on Capitol Hill.”
Perhaps the concerns related to this turn of events is best summed up by Judiciary Committee member Eric Swalwell (a Democrat from California). ‘I’m very concerned that Judiciary Committee Republicans may have worked to write President Trump’s illegal Muslim ban and agreed to conceal their role through a nondisclosure agreement,” said Judiciary Committee member Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) “Congress is supposed to be a transparent check on the president. Not a shadowy accomplice to un-American policy.”
In the State Department, upwards of 1,000 officials have signed an official memo called a “Dissent Channel,” a bold act which is being called “a remarkable revolt from within the federal bureaucracy.”Fallout: