The blowback from President's Trump immigration order

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," January 30, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:  It's not a Muslim ban. But we are totally prepared.  It's working out very nicely.

SENATE MINORITY LEADER CHARLES SCHUMER, D-N.Y.:  This executive order was mean-spirited and un-American.

TRUMP:  I noticed Chuck Schumer yesterday with fake tears.  I'm going to ask him who is his acting coach.

STEPHEN MILLER, TRUMP SENIOR POLICY ADVISER:  In the world with 7 billion people, the United States has an absolute sovereign right to determine who can and cannot enter in the United States.

REP. KEITH ELLISON, D-MINN.:  And they can't deny that this is a Muslim ban.  It is a Muslim.  On the campaign trail he said he wanted a Muslim ban.  He said on national television that there would be other religious groups who would receive priority.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR:  There you hear some of the back-and-forth on this immigration order, the executive order dealing with seven countries and refugees and people coming in from those seven countries.  Here they are.

And this breaking, at this hour, the Associated Press says the acting Attorney General Sally Yates has told the Justice Department lawyers not to make legal arguments defending this executive order.  She is the acting attorney general until Jeff Sessions gets confirmed by the Senate, does not believe the substance of the order is legal.  That is from the Associated Press at this hour.

Let's talk about it with our panel: Guy Benson, political editor at; David Catanese, senior politics writer for U.S. News and World Report, and Lisa Boothe, columnist with The Washington Examiner.

OK, Guy, your thoughts about the White House pushback to all of this coverage and the coverage itself.

GUY BENSON, TOWNHALL.COM:  I saw the clip there from Keith Ellison saying this is a Muslim ban, and a lot of the media has sort of gone along with that.  But it is not a Muslim ban.  You can object to a lot of elements, and I do object to some of them, but I think that's an inaccurate term based on what we know the facts to be.

That being said, I think the rollout of this is almost a clinic on what not to do, because you envision an alternate scenario where the White House had consultations with the appropriate agencies and lawyers, significant ones ahead of time, where they gave a heads up to allies on Capitol Hill with talking points in advance, where they had carve-outs for permanent legal residents, carve-outs for people who are in transit, carve-outs for interpreters and those types of people, and limited the pause moving forward to new issuances, I think we would be having a completely different conversation about the policy.  But that is not what happened, and therefore there is a debacle that the administration has been cleaning up for the last 48 hours.

BAIER:  David, what about Donald Trump tweeting "Only 109 people out of 325,000 were detained and held for questioning.  Big problems at airports caused by Delta computer outage, protestors, and the tears of Senator Schumer.  Secretary Kelly said that all is going well with very few problems.  Make America safe again." And that was reiterated by Sean Spicer at the briefing about the numbers, the 109 out of 325,000.

DAVID CATANESE, U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT:  That data point I think is a powerful one for the administration, but I think to Guy's point, they got caught behind all of this, and I think they lost the PR war over the weekend.  You have pictures all over the country of people at airports, and there was an impression that this was a much wider net of people that were in trouble that were being detained, and really that it was only 109.

I think this is an insular White House, and I think to not reach out to the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to give them a heads up.   Bob Corker who said today he was not briefed.  There is questions about whether they really spoke to the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, State Department advisers about how to do this, and there is a sense among skeptics but even among some Republicans that this is a Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner policy with President Donald Trump there, and that there's not many other people.  I think the problem is they need external validators in Congress, they need interest groups out there so when this policy hit on 4:38 on Friday they have people with that statistic out there.  They are playing catch up I think three days later.

BAIER:  Lisa?

LISA BOOTHE, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON EXAMINER:  I don't necessarily disagree with those assessments.  I think regardless of what the administration did there was going to be backlash on an execute order like this.  So ultimately they were going to face backlash.  But I do think there were things they could have done to help themselves, whether it was get out in front on the issue or have carve-outs and have it be a little more specificity regarding the green card issue, right, because there were sort of different changing evolutions and changing stories regarding that, or even the carve out for special immigrant visas regarding interpreters and individuals who have helped our military men and women abroad, and they weren't really there.

Now the White House has kind of had to backtrack on a couple of different things, clarify a couple of different things, so there didn't seem to be a lot of preparedness there.

But I do think there's a lot of intellectual dishonesty in the way that this conversation is being approached.  Whether it's what Guy is saying about individuals saying that this is somehow a Muslim ban even though any religion, any one from these seven different countries are not going to be able to come to the United States for a temporary period uptime.

BAIER:  Yes, President Trump addressed a Trump tweet, "If the ban was announced with a one week notice, the bad would rush into our country during that week.  A lot of bad dudes out there." He refers to the bad dudes quite a bit on Twitter, Guy.  That's his response and the White House response to why it happened the way it happened.

BENSON:  Yes, but you can also pause the issuance of new visas and mitigate that particular counterargument and that problem.

But again, I think optics do matter in politics.  And a lot of us sat at this table similar and criticized President Obama for optics, whether it was golfing during certain time.  This is something that the White House appears to have a learning curve on.  And just the images that you were speaking about over the weekend, these were teed up for the opponents of Donald Trump to go out and say look at these innocent victims.  Look at these people that all Americans say, oh, it's not fair, instinctively understand that's not fair while the pushback was virtually nonexistent because there were Republicans all over this town scrambling to figure out what was even in this thing, including, according to reports, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, which is crazy.  That sort of thing can't happen.

BAIER:  All right, speaking of optics, you have the former president, President Obama releasing a statement, "President Obama is heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country.  In his final official speech as president he spoke about the important role of citizens and how all Americans have a responsibility to be guardians of our democracy, not just during an election but every day.  Citizens exercising their constitutional right to assemble, organize, and have their voices heard by their elected officials is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake."

I don't think, let's 10 days, 11 days, the former president weighs in on a policy issue.

CATANESE:  It is extraordinary that it only took 10 days for him.  I felt that he felt he had no obligation.  Although he never cited President Trump, he was careful not to cite President Trump's name, he said he disagreed with policy.

BAIER:  That's what he did on the campaign trail, too.

CATANESE:  Sure, but that was the campaign trail.  Now it is President Trump in the office that Obama knows very well.  He took arrows for everything he did.  And I think there's a mutual respect among presidents, they know we are the only guys to sit here and take all this flak.

BAIER:  This is just a very different way to deal with it than, for example, George W. Bush, who did not weigh in.

BOOTHE:  Right.  I think we all knew that this was going to happen, and president Obama wasn't going to sit back and give President Trump the same respect that George W. Bush gave him.

I think this goes back to the intellectual dishonesty that's going on as well.  We all know there was a temporary ban on Iraqi refugees coming into this country for a brief period of time under President Obama.  Granted, the terms were different, but still, nonetheless, we also saw that the amount of refugees we were taking in from Syria, incredibly small numbers really up until 2016 when he was leaving office.  So yes, that shows a lot of courage.  You're doing it on your way out.  Mind you, considering the fact that a lot of the problems that happened in Syria were issues and things he created and exasperated by his inaction.

So there is a lot of intellectual dishonesty in the conversation.  But back to the broader point we were discussing earlier, a lot of that could have been taken care of if the administration maybe had given this a little bit more thought, had done some of these necessary carve-outs and maybe got out in front of the issue as it was hitting.  So I didn't really see people out there combating the narrative that was being drawn, anyone would know that would be drawn, given the coverage President Trump has been given throughout both the election and since he took office.

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