Donald Trump will draw back his proposed ban on Muslims entering the country once he’s elected president and focus instead on more precise policies meant to identify potential terrorists, his national security adviser told The Hill on Tuesday.
In an email exchange with The Hill, Trump’s national security adviser, Walid Phares, sought to clarify Trump’s position.
He argued that Trump’s original proposal to temporarily ban Muslims was necessary in the chaotic moments following the San Bernardino, Calif., shootings in order to “raise the issue and open a debate about it.”
Now, Phares says Trump’s concerns that terrorists are seeking to infiltrate the U.S. by posing as refugees have been confirmed by government agencies, and so Trump can be expected to take a more nuanced approach on Muslim immigration going forward.
“The Obama denial that the Jihadi attacks, including in California and Florida, were triggered by a Jihadi ideology prompted Mr. Trump to ask what is behind the infiltration and to question why the administration is not designating the radical Islamist ideology as inspirer,” Phares wrote.
“Hence, it is natural that the principle of a general ban will evolve into narrower policy suggestions during the campaign, and eventually when Mr. Trump is elected, he would direct the agencies and work with Congress to develop precise policies to detect the actual Jihadists. His statements were not against any community but warnings that the terrorists are penetrating every group they can.”
Phares said Trump is refining his proposal to hone in on the “ideology and the movements behind the terrorists,” rather than Islam writ large.There have been conflicting signals coming out of the Trump campaign over the Muslim ban in recent days.
In December, Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our countries representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”
At a major foreign policy address earlier this month — conducted a day after the terrorist attack in Orlando carried out by a man who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria — Trump seemed to expand the ban by calling for a suspension on all immigration coming from “areas of the world where there is a proven history of terrorism.”
But Trump seemed to soften his tone while on a trip to Scotland earlier this week, during which he talked about distinguishing terrorists from “peaceful Muslims.” Trump said he wouldn’t be bothered by Scottish or British Muslims coming to the U.S.
Still, Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson argued on CNN on Monday that there had been no change in Trump’s position.
Phares, however, indicated on Tuesday that the Muslim ban will narrow going forward.
“He has been clarifying the matter over the weeks and months,” Phares wrote. “It is not that the issue is the ban but the issue is the Jihadi detection.
“If you look at international attempts to detect the threat, in Europe and the Arab world you see that many Governments are very clear as to who is behind penetration of their own countries,” he continued.
“They cite the ideology and make the distinction very clear between moderates and radical Islamists. President Obama and Secretary Clinton still refuse what most countries fighting the Jihadists do: identifying the threat and designating the ideology. That’s why Mr. Trump is pushing for an identification, as most Governments worldwide are doing.”