Life is a campaign, President Donald Trump told reporters just a short while before launching his re-election bid for 2020 at a rally in Florida on Saturday, not even a month into his first term that has seen one high-level firing, an immigration order that outraged the world and a White House plagued by infighting.
The administration plans to issue a new immigration order this week, which, according to a leaked draft, will target the same seven Muslim-majority nations, but will spare permanent residents (holders of green cards) and which will be rolled out in a way that will give the government time to deal with lawsuits.
Speaking in Munich over the weekend, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said the new version will not stop green card residency holders or travellers already on planes from entering the US.
“The president is contemplating releasing a tighter, more streamlined version of the first (executive order). And I will have opportunity to work (on) a rollout plan, in particular to make sure that there’s no one in a sense caught in the system of moving from overseas to our airports,” Kelly said on Saturday.
Asked whether green card residency permit holders would be allowed in, Kelly said: “It’s a good assumption and, as far as the visas go, ... if they’re in motion from some distant land to the United States, when they arrive they will be allowed in.”
He promised “a short phase-in period to make sure that people on the other end don’t get on airplanes. But if they’re on an airplane and inbound, they’ll be allowed to enter the country.”
The administration would seek to implement the new order a week to two weeks after it is signed, and covers citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a memo from the State Department.
The original executive order, which Trump said was aimed at Islamist terrorism, had banned people from these countries for 90 days and excluded all refugees for 120 days, except those from Syria, who were banned indefinitely.
Trump is also expected to name a successor soon to Michael Flynn, the National Security Adviser he fired over dealings with Russians, but has had trouble finding one, after his first choice, a widely regarded vice-admiral of US navy, turned him down after failing to get an assurance he will be allowed to pick his team.
On Saturday, the president went into full campaign mode, with supporters holding up “Trump for 2020” signs, blasting, for starters, the media as he used to, accusing it of having its “own agenda”, which he told supporters, was “not your agenda”.
And he also told them Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers, and Abraham Lincoln, one of the most venerated of US presidents, had also complained about media. He quoted Jefferson, who had once extolled the virtues of a free press before souring on it, saying “nothing can be believed which is seen in a newspaper”. Trump is not the first US president to feel frustrated about unflattering news reports and leaks, but he has gone public about it like few before.
“We are here today to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” Trump told supporters. “I hear your demands, I hear your voices and I promise you I will deliver. I promise that. And by the way, you’ve seen what we’ve accomplished in a very short period of time.”
“The White House is running so smoothly. So smoothly. And believe me, I and we inherited one big mess.”
Both these assertions have been questioned. The White House has been called “dysfunctional” and rocked by infighting as competing power centres jockey for advantage. At his now famous news conference last week, the president claimed it was operating like a “fine-tuned machine”. He repeated that claim Saturday in an obvious attempt to counter the narrative taking root that the White House was out of control.
Trump also reprised the claim of having inherited a mess, which has been angrily challenged by aides of former president Barack Obama who have pointed to continuous job growth for 75 months running, and extensive healthcare coverage in their boss’s defence. But Trump can be selective, and creative, with facts.
Repeating his vow to fight terrorism, Trump said, “You look at what’s happening. We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?”
But there was really nothing to believe or disbelieve; nothing had happened in Sweden. Carl Bildt, a former prime minister of Sweden, wrote on Twitter, “Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound.” (With inputs from Agencies)