President Donald Trump "clearly respects" people with peaceful faiths, including those who are "Muslim and peace-loving," but still recognizes there are certain countries that pose dangers to the United States," press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday while defending the president's controversial executive travel ban order.
"He recognizes that certain countries and certain areas of the world produce people that seek to do harm," Spicer MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program. "We have to make sure those people undergo a certain amount of vetting before they come into our country. I think there is a big difference between the religion and the location."
Spicer also defended the method by which the ban was rolled out, including the confusion concerning green card holders, saying the "appropriate people and agencies, including the Department of State and Homeland Security Department were informed."
"The more you telegraph what you're about to see, the more we pose a significant security threat," said Spicer. "If we sent this down to every low-level individual, more people [would have] flooded into the country to take advantage before the ban went into effect."
As it happened, "325,000 people flew into this country and 109 people were affected and slowed down in their travel," said Spicer. While he said he understands the detentions were an "inconvenience," it is still a "small price to pay" in the event that someone who could have caused a terrorist attack was admitted."
Spicer noted that Trump has "significant calls" with Jordan's King Abdullah II, who is in Washington on Monday, and there are other countries in the Middle East that want to fight back against the threat of the Islamic State.
"You have the Saudi king and also the leader of the UAE both agreeing to work with the United States to create the safe zones in Syria that we have been talking about for sometime," said Spicer.
The countries on Trump's list — Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen — are the same that were on a threat list issued by former President Barack Obama in 2015, Spicer pointed out.
Spicer also on Monday pushed back at contentions that many of Trump's key advisers, including Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and Defense Security James Mattis, had not been included in the decisions on the ban until the last minute.
"He has national security advisers, he is listening to them and all and listening to Mattis and Kelly," said Spicer.
"To make the assumption he is not listening to them is insane. He sat down with the secretary of defense for an extended period of time yesterday and on the phone with these guys constantly."
Spicer also on Monday defended Trump's decision to add Chief Strategist Steve Bannon to the principals committee for the National Security Council, while determining that both the Director of National Intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will only attend the committee meetings when issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed.
"David Axelrod attended national security meetings as did Robert Gibbs," Spicer said of past presidential advisers. "All we did was become transparent and put down on paper who is going to attend. Make sure that it's out there for everyone to see who is part of this committee."
Former President George W. Bush did not believe his deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove, should be part of the committee meetings because of his political role, but Spicer insisted Bannon is "not playing Karl Rove's part."
"Steve has military extensive background in geopolitical affairs and the assumption he is playing the same role as Karl Rove is not accurate," said Spicer.
"He brings to the table a much greater scope of the political landscape vis-a-vis the world, the geopolitical landscape and national security affairs. I think codifying it and putting it out there something we are not trying to hide."
Spicer also addressed reports that Trump may announce his pick to fill the seat of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia early, saying the announcement is still set for Thursday at this time.
Meanwhile, he said he'd defer to the Senate when it comes to how many votes will be necessary for the the nominee will be confirmed and when it comes to the threat of a Democratic filibuster, saying he trusts Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, to make that determination.
Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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