Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), a confidant to Donald Trump, acknowledged late Saturday that he advised the president on how to carry out his desire to enact a “Muslim ban,” making it significantly harder for the administration to deny that the new executive order is anything but that.
“When he first announced it, he said ‘Muslim ban,’” Giuliani said in a Fox News interview. “He called me up and said, ‘Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.’”
Giuliani said he did indeed form a commission, with former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) and other lawyers.
“What we did was we focused on ― instead of religion ― danger,” Giuliani added. “The areas of the world that create danger for us, which is a factual basis, not a religious basis ― perfectly legal, perfectly sensible, and that’s what the ban is based on. It’s not based on religion. It’s based on places where there are substantial evidence that people are sending terrorists into our country.”
Trump’s policy suspends refugee resettlement entirely for 120 days. It also bars Syrian refugees indefinitely and individuals from seven countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) temporarily. Legal permanent residents, also called green card holders, from those countries are being admitted only on a case-by-case basis.
The executive order further states that the United States should “prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.”
In other words, Muslims will be at a disadvantage. Last week, Trump also implied that Christians will get special treatment over people of other faiths.
“Do you know if you were a Christian in Syria, it was impossible, at least very tough, to get into the United States?” Trump said. “If you were a Muslim, you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible. And the reason that was so unfair ― everybody was persecuted, in all fairness ― but they were chopping off the heads of everybody, but more so the Christians. And I thought it was very, very unfair.”
The Trump administration has nevertheless insisted that the policy is not a Muslim ban ― even though the countries on the list are predominantly Muslim.
“[The order] also says, ‘persecuted Muslims get priority as well,’” White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday, citing a line that does not appear in the order. “So this is not a Muslim ban ... this is identifying the seven countries. And the reason we chose those seven countries was those were the seven countries that both the Congress and the Obama administration identified as being the seven countries that were most identifiable with dangerous terrorism taking place in their country.”
Trump’s executive order names the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as a rationale. But Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates ― places where the 9/11 terrorists were from ― are notably not on the list. They are also countries where Trump has done business.
Later on Sunday, Trump issued a statement again insisting that the executive order “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.”
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This article was updated with Trump’s statement Sunday afternoon.