“Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd grilled President Donald Trump’s chief of staff on Sunday over the administration’s executive order temporarily barring immigrants from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the US for 90 days.
During an interview on “Meet The Press,” the NBC anchor asked Reince Priebus to clarify many parts of the executive order, which left airports in chaos Saturday as travellers from seven countries singled out in the measure were detained or put on return flights by border and customs agents.
The move sparked protests at airports across the US and led several travellers to immediately bring lawsuits against the federal government. A federal judge in Brooklyn issued a temporary stay late Saturday evening preventing the deportation of affected travellers.
“It seems that a lot of the chaos could’ve been avoided if you had some sort of timed grace period. Why wasn’t that included?” Todd asked.
Priebus dismissed criticism of the rollout of Trump’s action, claiming the order resulted in the detention of more than 100 people from the seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
“If you talk to people at customs and border patrol, they will say you’ve got to rip off the band aid and move forward. And so, it wasn’t chaos,” Priebus said.
He added: “Perhaps some of these people should be detained further, and if they are folks who shouldn’t be in this country, they’re going to be detained. So apologies for nothing here.”
The chief of staff also denied reports that Trump officials overruled and kept the Department of Homeland Security out of the loop about the order, leaving department officials to interpret the order after it was already signed.
“We were working with the agencies for a long time,” Priebus said. “This was not an executive order that was simply signed from the White House and suddenly transferred the the Department of Homeland Security. They knew well what was going on, and they conducted themselves perfectly pursuant to the order.”
The interview became heated when Todd attempted to clarify whether lawful permanent residents, referred to as “green-card holders,” from the seven countries would be included in the ban or subject to greater scrutiny. He said green-card holders were entitled to the same rights as US citizens.
“How are you confident that doesn’t violate their rights and doesn’t end up making this order unconstitutional?” Todd asked.
Priebus argued that green-card holders and American citizens alike would be subjected to greater scrutiny if they travelled “back and forth” to the seven affected countries.
“First of all, the order doesn’t affect green-card holders going forward, OK? That’s No. 1,” Priebus said.
“I’m confused by that. You keep saying going forward. You just said it did. I’m confused,” Todd replied.
“If you had just slowed down a second and listened for a second, I could answer your question,” Priebus interjected.
“I understand that, but you’ve twice confused me, so I’m trying to understand,” Todd said.
“It’s because you don’t stop talking, Chuck. I love you but I mean, let me answer the question,” Priebus said.
Priebus also hinted that there could be similar bans on other Muslim-majority countries in the future.
“Perhaps other countries needed to be added, but this is all done for the protection of Americans,” Priebus said.