Navigating Trump's America: The "Muslim ban" is off Trump's website. Is it still policy?
One of the cornerstone promises of Donald Trump's presidency has mysteriously disappeared from his campaign website. Trump's call for a "total and complete shutdown" of Muslims traveling or migrating to the United States was removed from DonaldJTrump.com minutes after press secretary Sean Spicer was asked on Monday about the statement from December 2015.
Trump's executive orders, which would institute a travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries, have faced hurdles in federal court because of his past statements on immigration. On Monday, a panel of 13 federal judges heard arguments for and against the ban. Attorneys for the federal government argued Trump's campaign statements on religion should be ignored when considering the motivation behind the second executive order on immigration. Government lawyers tried to make Trump sound more moderate, saying his focus is on terrorism and not specifically on Muslims. "This is not a Muslim ban," Jeffrey Wall, the acting solicitor general, said of the order.
Trump's promise to ban Muslims became a key talking point among his supporters. While Trump walked back his original promise somewhat later in the campaign, the message stuck: Trump was the "tough on terrorism" presidential candidate. Polling proved as much. Exit polls show Trump had won the 53% of the electorate that said the fight against ISIS is going "badly" by 43 points. The 18% of voters who said "terrorism" is the most important issue facing America voted for Trump by 17 points.
Don't buy this story of moderation. Removing a promise everyone knows you made and not talking about it at the White House doesn't mean it never happened. This promise, before any of the presidential primaries, fueled support for Trump among Americans who fear for the safety of the United States.
By Tuesday morning, Trump's website no longer displayed most of his campaign promises. (This one was his position on opioids. This is what that page used to look like.) It appears Trump's team has moved to erase official records of the president's campaign positions. Is a major policy shift coming?
This is Mic's daily read on Donald Trump's America. Welcome to the political newsletter that is wondering if you have screenshots of donaldjtrump.com.
What I'm watching:
Today: Is the "Muslim ban" gone for good?
More: Sally Yates' testimony skewered the White House.
Even more: James Comey is in hot water, again, over Hillary Clinton's emails.
Yes, more: We might be going (back) to a large-scale war in Afghanistan.
Trump's agenda today: Meeting with his national security adviser.
What Sally Yates said on Monday
From Mic's Andrew Joyce: Yates said she spoke with West Wing lawyers "to warn the White House the then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was vulnerable to Russian blackmail after lying to Vice President Mike Pence."
"Yet the White House waited another 18 days to fire Michael Flynn and only did so after the Washington Post got word that Yates had tried to alert the White House to the matter." Read Andrew's takeaways on the Yates hearing here.
Yates' testimony was damning. It painted Trump as a fool who ignored evidence-backed advice from a career public servant. She suggested Spicer has consciously downplayed what the White House knew and when they knew it. The former acting attorney general, a 2015 Barack Obama appointee as the No. 2 at the Justice Department, Yates easily parried Republican attacks on her credibility and legal knowledge. She defended her decision to not back Trump's first immigration order.
Trump weighed in on Twitter. He said Yates said "nothing but old news" and highlighted that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who testified alongside Yates, has said he saw no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
What Jim Comey wishes he hadn't said
In testimony last week, FBI Director James Comey detailed his "incredibly painful" decision to publicly announce he was reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails shortly before last year's election. Huma Abedin, Anthony Weiner's wife and a longtime aide to Clinton, regularly forwarded "hundreds of thousands" of Clinton's emails to her husband, a man with a questionable internet browsing history.
Now, ProPublica is reporting what Comey said was wrong — and the FBI is not sure how to respond. Comey reportedly "misstated what Abedin did and what FBI investigators found," ProPublica wrote. Comey was under oath during his testimony and would have to correct his statements in a written memo to the Senate.
Military escalation in Afghanistan?
The U.S. could commit, in the next two weeks, to re-escalating the war in Afghanistan, the Washington Post reported Monday. The strategy would move control over how many American soldiers are in the country and where airstrikes are conducted to the Pentagon. The proposal is designed to roll back Obama-era restrictions on U.S. involvement in the conflict, where the U.S. has been fighting since 2001. Increased military pressure from America will hopefully bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.
Trump and H.R. McMaster, the president's national security adviser, are meeting on Tuesday. McMaster is reportedly the key proponent of greater military intervention.
News and insight you cannot miss:
• An Iowa congressman did not take kindly to being asked why he will accept campaign donations from people outside his district after saying he only represents people in his district. He abruptly left an interview — while surrounded by schoolchildren. (Mic)
• California Sen. Kamala Harris, a Democrat, on the Republican health care plan: "What the fuck is that?" (Mic)
• Trump has delayed a $1 billion arms deal with Taiwan to please the Chinese. He hopes Beijing is able to ratchet down the tension on the Korean peninsula. (Mic)
• The Interior Department is halting the work of 200 science advisory boards. (Mic)
• The president's list of judicial nominees is very conservative. (US News)
• Jimmy Kimmel was back on Monday night. "I would like to apologize for saying that children in America should have health care," the host said on Jimmy Kimmel Live! "It was insensitive. It was offensive and I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me." (Mic)