White House renews defense of travel ban
Palm Beach, Fla. — A top White House aide renewed support for President Donald Trump’s embattled immigration order and praised a surge in deportations Sunday, as the new president faces a new provocation in the form of an apparent missile test by North Korea.
The White House continues to weigh its options following a legal blow last week to Trump’s immigration order suspending the nation’s refugee program and barring citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S.
Stephen Miller, Trump’s chief policy adviser and one of the architects of the order, maintained in a round of Sunday show interviews that the president has sweeping executive authority when it comes to barring foreigners he deems pose a risk to the country. He said Trump will do “whatever we need to do, consistent with the law, to keep this country safe” and slammed judges who’ve stood in his way.
“This is a judicial usurpation of the power. It is a violation of judges’ proper roles in litigating disputes. We will fight it,” Miller said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”
As for the administration’s next steps, Miller said that “all options” remain on the table,” including a Supreme Court appeal. Trump said on the plane ride to Florida on Friday that he was considering signing a “brand new order” as early as Monday to try to bypass the legal challenges.
“As you know, we have multiple options, and we are considering all of them,” Miller said on ABC’s “This Week.”
The comments come amid an outcry from immigration activists over an “enforcement surge” by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers that officials say is targeting immigrants who are in the country illegally and have criminal records.
Advocacy groups contend the government has rounded up large numbers of people as part of stepped-up enforcement. The agency calls the effort no different from enforcement actions carried out in the past.
But Trump and Miller appeared eager to take credit for the action.
“The crackdown on illegal criminals is merely the keeping of my campaign promise. Gang members, drug dealers & others are being removed!” Trump tweeted.
Added Miller on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “We’re going to focus on public safety and saving American lives and we will not apologize.”
In the meantime, Miller insisted it wasn’t up to him to say whether the president retains confidence in national security adviser Michael Flynn, who has come under scrutiny for his contact with the Russians before Trump’s inauguration.
Miller repeated in several interviews that the White House hadn’t given him anything specific to say about Flynn during his appearances on the Sunday news shows. Miller called a report that Flynn had discussed U.S. sanctions in calls with Russia’s ambassador while President Barack Obama was still in office “a sensitive matter” best answered by Trump, Vice President Mike Pence or chief of staff Reince Priebus.
Trump has spent the weekend in Florida at his sprawling Mar-a-Lago estate, holding meetings, making calls, golfing and hosting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
For most of Saturday, Trump and the Japanese prime minister played golf under the Florida sun to get to know one another and show the world the U.S.-Japan alliance remained strong. A surprise provocation by the North Koreans provided a more significant example of cooperation.
After North Korea reportedly launched a ballistic missile, the two leaders appeared for hastily prepared statements in a ballroom of Trump’s south Florida estate late Saturday. Abe spoke first and longest.
“North Korea’s most recent missile launch is absolutely intolerable,” Abe said through a translator. He added that the North must comply fully with relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions, but also noted that Trump had assured him that the U.S. supported Japan.
“President Trump and I myself completely share the view that we are going to promote further cooperation between the two nations. And also we are going to further reinforce our alliance,” he said.
Trump followed Abe with even fewer words, saying in part: “I just want everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent.” With that, they left the room.
Miller said on ABC that the joint appearance marked “an important show of solidarity between the United States and Japan.”
“Last night, what you saw was the president of the United States sending a powerful and unmistakable signal to North Korea and the entire world as he stood shoulder to shoulder with the prime minister of Japan and declared our steadfast and unwavering support of the alliance,” he added on “Fox News Sunday.”
Trump is to remain in Florida through Sunday evening and is scheduled to meet with his pick for treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, and his longtime friend-turned-Republican National Committee finance chair Steve Wynn, before heading back to Washington.
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