White House press secretary Sean Spicer got into a heated exchange with reporters at Tuesday’s press briefing over President Donald Trump’s Monday tweet calling his executive order that temporarily bars people from seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the US a “ban.”
Early in the briefing, Spicer said referring to the order as a travel ban was incorrect and a falsehood about the statute that was being perpetuated by the news media.
NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker told Spicer that a Monday tweet from Trump referred to the order as a ban.
Here was that tweet from Trump:
If the ban were announced with a one week notice, the “bad” would rush into our country during that week. A lot of bad “dudes” out there!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 30, 2017
“So he says it’s a ban,” Welker said.
“He’s using the words that the media is using,” Spicer responded. A reporter in the room fired back, “It’s his words!”
Spicer said the order “can’t be a ban” if people are still being allowed into the country.
“It is extreme vetting,” he said.
Welker kept at it.
“The president himself called it a ban,” she said.
“I understand,” Spicer replied.
Welker asked, “Is he confused, or are you confused?”
Spicer insisted he was not.
“No, I’m not confused,” he said. “I think that the words being used to describe it are derived from what the media is calling this. … [Trump] has been very clear that it is extreme vetting.”
He fired back, claiming that Welker and NBC News “have been part of the confusion,” and criticised the news network for referencing a New York Times report that Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly had not been properly consulted before the executive order was signed on Friday.
“It was accurate,” Times reporter Glenn Thrush shouted out.
“How can it be accurate reporting, Glenn?” Spicer asked. He pointed to Kelly’s Tuesday press conference during which he pushed back on the report.
“You’re calling him a liar?” Spicer asked.
“I’m not calling him a liar,” Thrush responded.
The executive order bars for 90 days people from Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, and Libya — countries identified by former President Barack Obama’s administration as terror hotspots — from entering the US. It also bars all refugees for 120 days, and bars Syrian refugees indefinitely.
The order was interpreted to include barring those who are legal permanent residents in the US, known as green-card holders. It led to widespread confusion at major airports over the weekend and legal permanent residents being detained. On Sunday, Kelly ordered green-card holders from the countries to be allowed into the US.
Federal judges in four states issued a temporary stay on Saturday preventing authorities from deporting travellers who were stuck in airports because of the order, but the long-term legality of the measure remains unclear.