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Trump undermines White House messaging, labels Muslim ban a ban

His tweets could be used as evidence in court.

President Donald Trump, joined by first lady Melania Trump, pauses as he speaks during the Ford’s Theatre Annual Gala at the Ford’s Theatre in Washington, Sunday, June 4, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
President Donald Trump, joined by first lady Melania Trump, pauses as he speaks during the Ford’s Theatre Annual Gala at the Ford’s Theatre in Washington, Sunday, June 4, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

President Donald Trump kicked off Monday morning with a tweetstorm calling for courts to allow a travel ban barring travelers from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S.

In a series of tweets, Trump repeatedly referred to his executive order on national security as a “travel ban” and said the Department of Justice “should ask for an expedited hearing of the watered down Travel Ban before the Supreme Court -& seek much tougher version!” The tweets, which focused on his travel ban, follows the horrific weekend attacks in London that has since left at least seven people dead and dozens wounded.

The president previously signed an executive order prohibiting travel from the Muslim-majority countries of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen for 90 days and bans refugee admissions for 120 days. Both the original executive order (which included Iraq on its list) and its revised version have been put on hold by courts on the basis that it discriminates against Muslims. The second executive order, which makes no mention of Islam, is now pending an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) — which issued a sassy retort in response to the president soon afterwards — will likely be able to use Trump’s recent tweets as evidence that his executive order discriminates against Muslims.

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For months, the White House has argued that Trump’s ban on travelers was not a “Muslim ban,” even going so far as to delete a campaign statement on “preventing Muslim immigration.” In January, Trump claimed the media was “falsely reporting” that he had ordered a Muslim ban. That same month, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump’s executive order “is not a travel ban.”

Yet at its core, Trump’s recent tweets speaks to the intent that he is indeed preventing Muslims from entering the United States. In hearings on whether to lift the injunction on Trump’s ban, judges cited the president’s previous comments about “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” as evidence that he’s specifically discriminating against Muslims.

Particularly with Trump’s “politically correct version” tweet, it would now likely be more difficult for his lawyers to continue to argue that he’s not intending to bar Muslims.

On Monday, Trump administration officials went on television to downplay the meaning of the president’s tweets. Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, criticized the media, saying people were obsessed with covering what Trump says on Twitter “and very little of what he does as president.”

Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka also downplayed the president’s tweets, saying the media “shouldn’t obsess” over “social media,” and firmly argued that Trump’s tweets weren’t about policy.

But whether White House officials like it or not, Trump’s tweets represent statements from the president of the United States. His words matter not just in the court of public opinion, but also in courts of law.

UPDATE: The White House still isn’t on the same page as to whether Trump’s ban really is a ban, or something else.

At a press conference on Monday, Principal Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the president’s tweets, saying, “The president isn’t concerned with what you call it.”

Earlier in the day, however, Trump insisted that the ban be called exactly that — a travel ban.