Priebus suggests immigration ban should be expanded to more countries

But countries in which Trump is doing business are conspicuously absent from the banned list.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
CREDIT: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Despite facing public backlash and legal challenges, the Trump administration appears to be doubling down on its recent immigration ban. The president’s top advisors are now floating the idea that it doesn’t go far enough and and say the administration is considering expanding the ban to include more countries.

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told NBC reporter Chuck Todd on Sunday that the ban could be expanded in the future to include countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Egypt.

Todd asked Priebus why the executive order — which prevents citizens of seven Muslim countries from entering the country for 90 days and suspends the admission of refugees for 120 days (and suspends refugees from Syria indefinitely) — did not include a handful countries that have faced terror attacks in the recent past, or countries that have fielded terrorists who have carried out attacks on American soil. Fifteen of the 19 terrorists involved in the 9/11 attacks came from Saudi Arabia — a country not covered by Trump’s recent ban, despite the fact that 9/11 is explicitly cited in the order as a reason for the ban.

“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,” Priebus said. “But you bring up a good point. Perhaps other countries needed to be added to an executive order going forward.”

Several reporters have noted that countries missing from the list of banned countries include places in which Trump has significant business interests, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia — the world’s largest majority-Muslim nation. The Trump Organization is currently building two large resorts in Indonesia.

Priebus denied that the president’s business holdings had anything to do with the decision to ban citizens from only some countries, and reiterated that the administration might add more countries in future executive orders.

The executive order itself makes it easy to expand the immigration ban: It tasks the Secretary of State and Secretary of Homeland Security with immediately reviewing countries that might be added to the ban. They have been asked to submit that list to the president within 30 days. Those countries will then have 60 days to submit necessary information to the United States — if those countries fail to provide information that the Department of Homeland Security deems necessary to properly vet an immigrant, the country can be added to the list from which entry into the United States is barred.