President Donald Trump took to Twitter early Monday to defend his executive order on immigration, blaming an airline computer outage and protesters for causing chaos at airports over the weekend, explaining "there is nothing nice about searching for terrorists."
Trump's comments came in a series of Twitter posts, in which he said "only 109 people out of 325,000 were detained and held for questioning" and also singled out New York's Sen. Chuck Schumer.
Responding to criticism his sudden immigration action caused unnecessary chaos at airports in the U.S. and abroad, Trump tweeted Monday:
Trump's order temporarily suspends all immigration for citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries for 90 days.
Top Trump aides also defended the order, comparing it to a 2011 policy on Iraqi refugees. In 2011, President Barack Obama imposed additional checks on Iraqi refugees after two Iraqis were charged with terrorism offenses in Kentucky.
In an interview Monday on ABC's "Good Morning America," Trump aide Kellyanne Conway claimed the 2011 policy "was never covered in the press." She also described it as Obama's own "ban" on refugees.
The 2011 policy was reported by several media outlets, including The Associated Press. Unlike Trump's order that imposed a 90-day ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries, the Obama policy applied only to Iraqi refugees and never specifically prohibited entry.
Meanwhile, Trump's order does not address homegrown extremists already in America, a primary concern of federal law enforcement officials. And the list of countries in Trump's order doesn't include Saudi Arabia, where most of the Sept. 11 hijackers were from.
"Big problems at airports were caused by Delta computer outage, protesters and the tears of Senator Schumer," Trump tweeted.
He was referring to a Delta systems outage Sunday night that led to departure delays and cancellations of at least 150 flights. However, the chaos started Saturday as protesters packed some of the country's major airports to demonstrate against the executive order.
Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer tweeted Friday:
Trump has defended his order by saying it's not a "Muslim ban."
A number of U.S. diplomats prepared a memo criticizing the temporary travel ban.
In a "dissent cable," being drafted for State Department leadership, the diplomats say the ban will not make the U.S. safe, runs counter to American values and will fuel anti-American sentiment around the world. They say the ban will not produce a drop in terror attacks in the U.S., but instead "a drop in international good will toward Americans."
U.S. officials say several hundred diplomats have signed on.
There appeared to be widespread confusion among authorities tasked with carrying out the order, and how it would be applied to certain groups, such as U.S. legal permanent residents.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly issued a statement Sunday saying, absent information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare, residency would be a "dispositive factor in our case-by-case determination." That means citizens of the seven countries who hold permanent U.S. residency "green cards" will not be barred from re-entering the U.S., as officials had previously said. It remains unclear what kind of additional screening they will now face.
"You have an extreme vetting proposal that didn't get the vetting it should have had," said Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who urged the new president to "slow down" and work with lawmakers on how best to tighten screening for foreigners who enter the United States.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Monday morning defended the closed-mouth discussions that preceded Friday's announcement, saying: "I think there are some people who might not like the way it was done, but they were all consulted in the process."
A federal judge in New York has issued an emergency order temporarily barring the U.S. from deporting people from the seven nations subject to Trump's 90-day travel ban.
The order barred U.S. border agents from removing anyone who arrived in the U.S. with a valid visa from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. It also covered anyone with an approved refugee application.
The Department of Homeland Security said Sunday the court ruling would not affect the overall implementation of the White House order.
Several Democrats in Congress said they would be introducing legislation to stop the ban.
Material from The Associated Press was used in compiling this report.
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