Trump’s post-Orlando counterterrorism proposals not yet reality
The day after the Pulse nightclub in Orlando became the site of the deadliest terrorist attack since 9/11, then-candidate Donald Trump reiterated his plans to cut off Syrian refugees from the US, produced the latest iteration of his Muslim ban and previewed his calls for extreme vetting of visitors from Muslim-majority countries.
Never mind that the attack’s perpetrator, Omar Mateen, was born in New York. The Pulse nightclub shooting was another terrorist attack, and another opportunity for Trump — as he did in the wake of the attack in San Bernardino, California, and others — to pick up on the fears gripping the country and give him the bump in the polls he argued terrorist attacks could deliver.
One year later, Trump remembered the attacks on Twitter, writing: “We will NEVER FORGET the victims who lost their lives one year ago today in the horrific #PulseNightClub shooting.”
But the policies he proposed in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting that claimed those lives have yet to become a reality — and a federal appeals court Monday dealt its latest repudiation of Trump’s attempt to “suspend immigration from areas of the world where there’s a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies,” as he promised to do a year ago in reaction to the Orlando attack.
Trump followed through on that pledge in the first week of his presidency, issuing an executive order that banned citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from the US. But the order was quickly blocked by federal courts that deemed it unconstitutional, prompting Trump and his administration to issue a revised order, which has also been blocked and is now headed for the Supreme Court.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday ruled that the revised order “exceeded the scope of the authority delegated to him by Congress.”
But even if the revised order gets reinstated by the Supreme Court, Trump’s pledge to indefinitely keep Syrian refugees from the United States likely won’t ever become a reality.
“We have to stop the tremendous flow of Syrian refugees into the United States. We don’t know who they are, they have no documentation and we don’t know what they’re planning and we won’t unless we have proper supervisor and proper leadership in which case they’re out of here. What I want is common sense,” Trump said to applause during his June 13, 2016, speech.
The revised executive order removed language promising an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees, instead suspending all refugee entry for a 120-day period.
Trump’s call for more stringent screening of foreign visitors, an idea he began floating after the Pulse nightclub shooting, has seen little follow-through from the Trump administration.
Trump insisted a year ago that the US’ screening of foreigners was a source of derision around the world, but his administration has yet to make major changes to how the US screens foreigners for visas and entry to the US.
In signing the first executive order, Trump directed his administration to launch a 30-day review of vetting procedures — a review that wasn’t finished by the time a federal judge blocked the executive order, including the vetting review portion. Absent any major changes, the administration has issued new rules on the screening of visa applicants requiring they provide more background information about themselves and provide access to their social media posts.
The 9th Circuit ruling on Monday would allow the government to proceed with its review of vetting procedures.
Trump also seized on the attack as an opportunity to reach out to the LGBT community and promised he would be a better friend to the LGBT community than his Democratic opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“I will tell you who the better friend is and some day I believe that will be proven out big league,” Trump said.
Six months into his administration, Trump’s surprisingly direct outreach to the LGBT community for a Republican presidential nominee has not borne itself out. Instead, Trump has been assailed by LGBT rights groups for rolling back protections on transgender students and signing a religious liberty executive order that gay rights groups worry could be used to sanction anti-gay discrimination.
Even as Trump has struggled — or simply failed — to make good on the rhetoric of his post-Orlando speech, his approach to responding to terrorist attacks has largely remained unchanged.
As president, Trump has continued to pounce on news of terrorist attacks to score political points and in the process often gotten ahead of the facts.
Just as Trump expressed his appreciation for “the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism” in the wake of the Pulse nightclub attack, Trump has claimed vindication in the wake of a terrorist attack in Sweden and jumped on the news of other terrorist attacks to tout the need for his hardline policy proposals.
In the process, Trump has muddled facts — just as he did by claiming the Orlando attacker was Afghani — and gotten ahead of investigators’ conclusions, claiming in April that an attack on police officers appeared to be “another terrorist attack” before local investigators had reached that conclusion.
After terrorists attacked civilians on London Bridge earlier this month, Trump pounced.
His first reaction to the attack was to call for the US courts to reinstate his travel ban: “We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!” he tweeted.