WASHINGTON (AP) — Holding firm to his immigration order, President Donald Trump on Monday denied it was to blame for chaos at the nation’s airports over the weekend, instead pointing to computer glitches, protesters and even the “tears of Senator Schumer.”
Later he shifted the focus away from the weekend’s immigration turmoil, signing an executive action aimed at cutting regulations for small businesses. White House officials called the directive a “one in, two out” plan, requiring government agencies requesting a new regulation to identify two others they will cut.
Trump signed the order in the Oval Office surrounded by small business leaders, saying it would “massively” cut regulations and calling it the “biggest such act that our country has ever seen.”
Trump’s business announcement came as protests continued around the country over his immigration order. Early Monday, he took to Twitter to defend the move, saying that only 109 out of 325,000 people “were detained and held for questioning.” Trump also said swift action was important, noting that there are a “lot of bad ‘dudes’ out there.”
Trump’s order temporarily suspends all immigration for citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries for 90 days.
Democratic New York Sen. Schumer choked up over the weekend while talking about the repercussions from the ban, but that brought scorn from Trump.
“I noticed Chuck Schumer yesterday with fake tears – I’m going to ask him who was his acting coach, because I know him very well. I don’t see him as a crier,” Trump said at the White House on Monday.
Top Trump aides compared the order to a 2011 policy on Iraqi refugees, when President Barack Obama imposed additional checks on Iraqi refugees after two Iraqis were charged with terrorism offenses in Kentucky. Unlike Trump’s order, the Obama policy applied only to Iraqi refugees and never specifically prohibited entry.
Meanwhile, Trump announced he will reveal his pick for the Supreme Court at 8 p.m. Tuesday. The court has had eight justices since the death last year of Justice Antonin Scalia. Obama nominated Merrick Garland for the post, but Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell refused to take up the nomination.
Trump enters his second week in office amid a global backlash to his policies. European Union officials denounced his immigration order as a dangerous embrace of isolationism and inequality, while the international aid group Doctors Without Borders accused Trump of keeping people “trapped in war zones, directly endangering their lives.”
In Iraq, two lawmakers said the Iraqi parliament has approved a “reciprocity measure” restricting the entry of Americans into Iraq.
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.
Trump’s take on the weekend turmoil: “Big problems at airports were caused by Delta computer outage, protesters and the tears of Senator Schumer.”
A Delta systems outage Sunday night 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.
In the face of criticism, Trump says his order is not a “Muslim ban.”
A number of U.S. diplomats prepared a memo criticizing it.
In a “dissent cable,” being drafted for State Department leadership, the diplomats say the ban runs counter to American values and will fuel anti-American sentiment around the world. They say it won’t 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.
The dissent cable originated in the State Department’s Consular Affairs bureau, which handles visas and whose employees are most directly affected by Trump’s order.
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 that, absent information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare, citizens of the seven countries who hold permanent U.S. residency “green cards” will not be barred as officials had previously said. It remains unclear what kind of additional screening they will face.
Republican Ohio Sen. Rob Portman urged the new president to “slow down” and work with lawmakers on how best to tighten screening.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday, “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. The order bars U.S. border agents from removing anyone who arrives in the U.S. with a valid visa from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. It also covers anyone with an approved refugee application.
The Department of Homeland Security said Sunday the court ruling would not affect overall implementation of the White House order.
Several Democrats in Congress said they would be introducing legislation to stop the ban.
Washington state’s attorney general said Monday he would sue Trump over the executive order, making Washington the first state to announce a legal action against the administration. Bob Ferguson was one of 16 state attorneys general who released a statement Sunday calling Trump’s immigration action “un-American and unlawful.”