Amid protests nationwide over President Donald Trump’s controversial immigration order, the president did not back away from his plan, saying his “first priority will always be to protect and serve our country.”
Trump released the statement Sunday afternoon, two days after he signed an executive order that bans refugees, migrants, and foreign nationals from seven mostly Muslim countries from entering the United States.
Trump also tweeted shortly after sending the statement, railing against senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham for their criticisms of his plan.
In his written statement, Trump said that “America is a proud nation of immigrants and we will continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression, but we will do so while protecting our own citizens and border. America has always been the land of the free and home of the brave.”
Trump said that the seven countries named in his executive order — Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Syria — were previously identified by the Obama administration as “sources of terror.”
“To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion — this is about terror and keeping our country safe,” Trump said. “There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order.”
Trump said his administration would again start issuing visas to the affected countries “once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days.”
“I have tremendous feeling for the people involved in this horrific humanitarian crisis in Syria,” Trump said, referring to the portion of the order that bans Syrian refugees from entering the US. “My first priority will always be to protect and serve our country, but as President I will find ways to help all those who are suffering.”
Trump also took to the Twitter Sunday afternoon to bash McCain and Graham.
“The joint statement of former presidential candidates John McCain & Lindsey Graham is wrong - they are sadly weak on immigration. The two [s]enators should focus their energies on ISIS, illegal immigration and border security instead of always looking to start World War III,” Trump tweeted.
The joint statement of former presidential candidates John McCain & Lindsey Graham is wrong - they are sadly weak on immigration. The two...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 29, 2017
...Senators should focus their energies on ISIS, illegal immigration and border security instead of always looking to start World War III.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 29, 2017
In their joint statement, McCain and Graham said they were “concerned by reports that this order went into effect with little to no consultation with the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security.”
“Ultimately, we fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism,” the statement read.
McCain also appeared on CBS’s “Face the Nation” to talk about the order.
‘‘The good news is that its only got to do with a pause,’’ McCain said on the show. ‘‘The bad news is obviously this process and these conclusions were not vetted.’’
‘‘I think the effect will probably in some areas give ISIS some more propaganda,” McCain said. ‘‘I’m very concerned about our effect on the Iraqis right now.’’
Trump had also tweeted on Sunday morning, sending messages that apparently referred to the controversial immigration order.
A tweet from Trump on Sunday morning seemed to refer to religious extremism, although he provided no context:
Christians in the Middle-East have been executed in large numbers. We cannot allow this horror to continue!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 29, 2017
Trump was handed two losses in federal courts overnight regarding Friday executive order.
Earlier on Sunday morning, Trump tweeted:
“Our country needs strong borders and extreme vetting, NOW,” he wrote.
Our country needs strong borders and extreme vetting, NOW. Look what is happening all over Europe and, indeed, the world - a horrible mess!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 29, 2017
He also took aim again at The New York Times, a frequent foil for Trump during the presidential campaign and afterward.