For the past seven months since the terror attack in San Bernardino, California, presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has called for an end to Muslim immigration into the United States, inciting rage and controversy over his plan for a “total and complete shutdown.” Republicans like Republican National Committee Reince Priebus and Trump’s top advisor Paul Manafort have since had to walk back those statements for him. Asked directly by 60 Minutes host Lesley Stahl if he had changed his position, Trump replied “no.”
During the 60 Minutes interview with vice presidential running mate Mike Pence, Trump shrugged off a suggestion that he had changed his position on a proposal for a blanket ban on Muslim immigration. Trump characterized the idea that he would scrutinize people from “terror nations” as merely a rhetorical change.
“You know — the Constitution — there’s nothing like it,” Trump told Stahl. “But it doesn’t necessarily give us the right to commit suicide, as a country, OK? And I’ll tell you this. Call it whatever you want, change territories, but there are territories and terror states and terror nations that we’re not gonna allow the people to come into our country.”
“And we’re gonna have a thing called ‘Extreme vetting,’” Trump added. “And if people wanna come in, there’s gonna be extreme vetting. We’re gonna have extreme vetting. They’re gonna come in and we’re gonna know where they came from and who they are.”
Trump also continued to embrace his ban of Syrian refugees, arguing that they aren’t properly vetted.
“So you call it territories. OK? We’re gonna do territories,” Trump said. “We’re gonna not let people come in from Syria that nobody knows who they are.”
Syrian refugees face a rigorous screening process that can take upwards of two years before they can even set foot in the United States. And as an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit revealed, legal immigrants from Muslim-majority countries face long wait times to become U.S. citizens during the naturalization process.
The Republican party has attempted to soften Trump’s harsh language on a Muslim ban almost as soon as he began promoting the controversial policy plan after the terror attack in San Bernardino, California by a self-radicalized Muslim couple in December 2015. At the time, he called for a “total and complete shutdown” on Muslim immigration.
Trump has refined his statements over time to exempt Muslims living in the United States, his Muslim friends, Muslim-Americans serving in the military, Muslim world leaders, and athletes. But he has yet to move away from his proposal, qualifying his exceptions against the backdrop of the threat of terrorism.
Republicans looking to soften Trump’s Muslim ban continued into Sunday when Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in two separate interviews with CNN and ABC News, that Trump had “pivoted” away from his call to ban Muslim immigration.