March 6, 2017
Washington (CNN)The Trump administration Monday will announce a revised executive order banning immigration from six Muslim-majority countries, notably dropping Iraq from January’s previous order, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said.
Iraq will not be included under the travel ban “based on their enhanced screening and reporting measures,” Conway said on “Fox and Friends.” Her comments Monday are the first time an administration official has definitively and publicly said the nation will be removed from the order.
The new travel ban comes six weeks after President Donald Trump’s original executive order was rolled out to chaos and confusion at airports nationwide, prompting a legal fight that saw the President rail against federal judges on Twitter. The administration hopes the new version will pass muster with the courts.
The order will make clear that lawful permanent residents (otherwise known as green card holders) are excluded from any travel ban. Also those with validly issued visas will also be exempt from the ban, Conway said. It will be effective as of March 16.
“If you have travel docs, if you actually have a visa, if you are a legal permanent resident, you are not covered under this particular executive action,” Conway said. “Also, Iraq is no longer on the list based on their enhanced screening and reporting measures.”
The original order barred citizens of seven countries — Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen — from entering the US for 90 days, all refugees for 120 days and indefinitely halted refugees from Syria.
But the newly-crafted order also revealed that the administration wasn’t just paying attention to the legal criticism in the courts, but also recalibrating in light of the heavy political fire they faced after the first order’s messy rollout.
While administration lawyers argued the original travel ban went into effect immediately to prevent terrorists from rushing into the country, the revised ban will phase in after 10 days.
White House officials also collaborated for several weeks with officials at the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and kept congressional leaders apprised of their progress this time around after the White House drew a backlash for keeping Congress and relevant federal agencies almost entirely in the dark during the first rollout.
The White House also abandoned the sense of urgency with which it implemented the first travel ban, delaying the signing of a new executive order multiple times over the last three weeks. Politics also came into play as White House officials delayed the signing from last Wednesday in part to allow positive coverage of the president’s joint address to Congress to continue uninterrupted.
But the new order was also delayed in part because of a debate within the administration over how to handle Iraq.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and national security adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster had all advocated for Iraq to be removed from the Trump administration’s list of banned countries in the new executive order for diplomatic reasons, including Iraq’s role in fighting ISIS, sources told CNN’s Elise Labott and Evan Perez. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly also supported the move.
Why Iraq was removed
Iraq was removed from the revised travel ban executive order after intensive lobbying from the Iraqi government at the highest levels, according to a senior US official.
That included a phone call between Trump and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on February 10 and an in-person conversation between Abadi and Vice President Mike Pence in Munich on February 18.
Those conversations were followed by discussions between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and members of the Iraqi government about vetting measures in place that would prevent suspected terrorists from leaving Iraq and coming to the United States. Iraq did not implement new measures; rather, the country provided more detail to US officials about how it screens travelers.
In Trump’s call with Abadi, the President vowed to seek a resolution to his counterpart’s concerns about his citizens’ being unable to enter the United States, according to a readout of the phone call from Baghdad. The US official said Trump asked Tillerson to get greater clarity on vetting measures in Iraq.
Trump also faced pressure to remove Iraq from the order from some American national security officials, who argued the restriction burdened a key anti-ISIS partner. Some of those voices were holdovers from the Obama administration.
This story is breaking and will be updated.