Updated at 11:22 a.m. ET
President Trump is mounting a vigorous defense of his controversial travel ban, continuing an argument he started over the weekend in response to a terrorist attack in London.
That message launched a series of tweets.
His uncompromising language could complicate matters for administration lawyers charged with defending the travel ban in court.
The tweets also threaten to overshadow a series of White House policy announcements on infrastructure this week. This is not the first time that a carefully choreographed roll-out by the administration has been upended by the president’s itchy thumbs.
Trump’s original travel ban, barring would-be visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, prompted airport protests throughout the country and was quickly blocked by the federal courts.
The administration crafted a second version, which dropped Iraq from the list of targeted countries, removed religious language and made other adjustments in an effort to pass constitutional muster. The revised ban has also been blocked by the courts. A federal judge in Hawaii cited comments from White House adviser Stephen Miller, suggesting the changes from the original travel ban were merely cosmetic and would have little practical effect. Courts have also pointed to Trump’s own language during the presidential campaign when he called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
A federal appeals court in Virginia also ruled against the administration, saying despite the changes, the revised ban “drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination.”
Last week, the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to issue an emergency order reinstating the travel ban. The high court has given critics of the ban until June 12 to respond.
Trump’s tweets Monday morning could give fresh ammunition to those who argue the revised travel ban still has constitutionally suspect motives, and hedges on Trump’s stated desire to reinstate the original version.
Neal Katyal, an attorney for the state of Hawaii in its challenge to the executive order, embraced the president’s tweets on Monday morning.
While the travel ban remains on hold, the administration is pressing ahead with efforts to improve screening of would-be travelers, including a review of their social media habits. Last week, Reuters reported that some visa applicants worldwide may be asked to provide social media information covering the past five years.
This is all likely to draw attention away from the administration’s intended message this week concerning infrastructure. In addition to the proposal to privatize the air traffic control system, Trump will visit Cincinnati on Wednesday to focus attention on the nation’s inland waterways. He’ll also drop by the Transportation Department on Friday to argue for a streamlined permitting process.
Infrastructure is one of the few areas where Trump has a chance of attracting bipartisan support. But while the president has repeatedly promised to spark a trillion dollar investment in roads, railroads, pipelines, and other projects, the White House envisions a very limited role for the federal government, with most of the money coming from state and local sources or the private sector.
Despite the fanfare that the White House hoped would accompany this theme-week, the administration’s infrastructure ideas are still in the formative stages, with many details yet to be worked out.