Chuck Todd Grills White House Chief Of Staff Reince Priebus On The Muslim Ban

Todd Questions The Ban's Constitutionality And Points Out It Omits Countries Trump Does Business With

From the January 29 editioon of NBC's Meet The Press

Video file

CHUCK TODD (HOST): One of the things in the order apparently is to include green card holders and that is something that there has been a report that the Department of Homeland Security recommended that it not include green card holders. Why did the White House choose to overrule the Department of Homeland Security on that one? 

REINCE PRIEBUS: We didn't overrule the Department of Homeland Security. As far as green card holders, moving forward it doesn't affect them. But here's the deal, if you're coming in and out of one those seven countries -- by the way identified by the Obama administration as the seven most dangerous countries in the world in regard to harboring terrorists and affirmed by Congress multiple times -- then you're going to be subjected temporarily with more questioning until a better program is put in place over the next several months. This is something that 75, 80 percent of Americans out there agree with. We don't want people that are traveling back and forth to one of these seven countries that harbor terrorists to be traveling freely back and forth between the United States and those countries. 

TODD: You just said something at the beginning of your answer and it seemed like an aside. This order does not impact any green card holders from these seven countries? 

PRIEBUS: Well of course, it does. If you're traveling back and forth you're going be subjected to further screening. I mean we're going to -- of course. 

TODD: Let me ask you this. Are you going to do that to American citizens as well that travel in and out of these seven countries? 

PRIEBUS: I would suspect it if you're an American citizen traveling back and forth to Libya, you're likely to be subjected to further questioning when you come into an airport. 

TODD: Let me ask you this. Why are you confident that's constitutional? And I'll ask it this way because green card holders -- they go through extreme vetting to get the green card number one, but number two, when they get that green card they're entitled to all of the protections that citizens do. 

PRIEBUS: I'm not suggesting that. 

TODD: No I understand that. But are you, by having to put in an extra hurdle for a green card holder in order to get back into the country, how are you confident that doesn't violate their rights and doesn't end up making this order unconstitutional? 


PRIEBUS: If you're a person -- this isn't in regard to the executive order. The executive order doesn't affect green card holders moving forward. I've said that. But what I'm suggesting to you is that Customs and Border Patrol, I would suspect, if they have a person that's traveling back and forth to Libya, or Somalia, or Yemen, I would suspect within their discretion they might ask a few more questions at JFK or some other airport when someone is coming back and forth within their discretionary authority as a Customs and Border Patrol agent and what I'm saying is I would suspect that most Americans would agree that that might be a good thing to do. What I'm not suggesting to you is that that is in the order moving forward. I'm suggesting that within the discretion of the CBP that those questions would likely be asked. 

TODD: OK. You say it doesn't affect green card holders moving forward, but you just said it does impact green card holders from those seven countries. Those two things don't compute. 

PRIEBUS: No, it computes, Chuck, because there's discretionary authority that a Customs and Border Patrol agent has when they suspect that someone is up to no good that's traveling back and forth to Libya or Yemen. And I'm not suggesting it's in the order. I'm suggesting that at every level in an airport a Customs and Border Patrol agent has the authority to use their discretion to ask questions. That's all we're talking about. We're off on a tangent that has nothing to do with the executive order.

TODD: Let me ask about the executive order because the countries chosen, and I know you say this is countries that were codified by Congress, chosen by the Obama administration, but here's what I'm confused about: when you look at those folks that have committed terrorist acts in this country, killed Americans, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt -- you've had more terrorists come from those three countries than any of the seven that you have. In fact, in the case of Saudi Arabia, more have come from Saudi Arabia to kill Americans than the seven countries combined. Why was Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Pakistan and Egypt not included on this list if you are so concerned about this issue? 

PRIEBUS: We are concerned about the issue, Chuck, and that's why we put the seven countries initially into the executive order that were identified previously by Congress, by both the House and the Senate and the Obama administration as being the seven most watched countries in regard to harboring terrorists, but you bring up a good point. Perhaps other countries need to be added to an executive order going forward, but in order to do this in a way that was expeditious, in a way that would pass muster quickly, we used the seven countries that have already been codified and identified by both the Obama administration and the Congress. But you bring up a good point and perhaps other countries need to be added, but this is all done for the protection of Americans, and waiting another three days and waiting another three weeks is something that we don't want to get wrong. President Trump is not willing to get this wrong, which is why he wants to move forward quickly and protect Americans. 

TODD: And just to clear things up, the Trump Organization has business ties in a couple of the countries that were not included, including Saudi Arabia. Did that have any impact on why Saudi Arabia was not included on the list? 

PRIEBUS: Of course not, Chuck. Just like I said very clearly. The countries that were chosen in the executive order to protect Americans from terrorists were the countries that have already been identified by Congress and the Obama administration. That does not mean that other countries wouldn't be added later to a subsequent executive order, but again, this -- what we're talking about out of 325,000 people trying to find a proverbial needle in a hay stack was accomplished yesterday with a little over 100 people detained for further questioning from these countries. People are moving out of the system and moving forward. This, obviously is going to be, I believe, a very smooth and effective operation for the safety of Americans across the country. 


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