WASHINGTON — Amid the chaos and confusion of President Donald Trump’s new executive order on immigration and refugees, sources tell CNN that White House policy director Stephen Miller spoke with officials of the State Department, Customs and Border Patrol, Department of Homeland Security and others to tell them that the President is deeply committed to the executive order and the public is firmly behind it — urging them not to get distracted by what he described as hysterical voices on TV.
Miller also noted on Saturday that Trump administration officials are discussing the possibility of asking foreign visitors to disclose all websites and social media sites they visit, and to share the contacts in their cell phones. If the foreign visitor declines to share such information, he or she could be denied entry. Sources told CNN that the idea is just in the preliminary discussion level. The social media posts calling for jihad by San Bernardino terrorist Tashfeen Malik — made under a pseudonym and with strict privacy settings — are part of this discussion. How such a policy would be implemented remains under discussion.
Miller praised the State Department on Saturday, sources tell CNN, but argued that the government needs to do better job of making sure the people who come into the US embrace American values.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer did not respond to a request for comment.
Already, Politico reported in December, the US government had quietly begun asking that foreign visitors provide their social media accounts voluntarily. The Obama administration had previously approved asking for much more information from people on terror watch lists, The Intercept reported in 2014.
Trump’s executive order bars citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for the next 90 days and suspends the admission of all refugees for 120 days.
Trump’s unilateral moves, which have drawn the ire of human rights groups and prompted protests at US airports, reflect the President’s desire to quickly make good on his campaign promises. But they also encapsulate the pitfalls of an administration largely operated by officials with scant federal experience.
It wasn’t until Friday — the day Trump signed the order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days and suspending all refugee admission for 120 days — that career homeland security staff were allowed to see the final details of the order, a person familiar with the matter said.
The result was widespread confusion across the country on Saturday as airports struggled to adjust to the new directives. In New York, two Iraqi nationals sued the federal government after they were detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport, and 10 others were detained as well.
Trump on Sunday defended his recent executive order on extreme vetting, saying in a statement: “We will continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression, but we will do while protecting our own citizens and voters.”
He added: “This is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion — this is about terror and keeping our country safe.”
He said his first priority “will always be to protect and serve our country, but as President I will find ways to help all of those who are suffering.”