Press Secretary Sean Spicer insisted on Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s travel ban had nothing to do with religion, contradicting what Trump originally campaigned on as the reason for such a measure.
The executive order, temporarily barring all refugees as well as people from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the US, is on hold as it makes its way through the legal system.
The Ninth Circuit federal appeals court struck down the ban on February 9, preventing it from being enforced nationally.
Nationwide protests since Trump signed the order have taken issue with the religious component of the ban, though the administration insists religion had nothing to do with it.
“It was crafted in a way that was very clear about the countries, and it was not focused on anything else but the vetting requirements that we have to make sure that we know who’s coming into this country, and to that they’re here not to do us any harm,” Spicer said during the daily press briefing on Wednesday. “He’s made it very clear from the beginning that this was a country-focused issue, a safety-focused issue, and that’s why he issued it.”
“The ‘Muslim ban’ was a centerpiece of the president’s campaign for months, and the press release calling for it was still available on his website as of the day this Memorandum Opinion is being entered,” Brinkema wrote in her ruling. “Just as the Supreme Court has held that ‘the world is not made brand new every morning,’ a person is not made brand new simply by taking the oath of office.”
In the press release — which is still available on Trump’s campaign site — the then-Republican presidential candidate called “for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
“Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life,” Trump said in the 2015 statement. “If I win the election for President, we are going to Make America Great Again.”
The Trump administration has said it will appeal the Ninth Circuit ruling and possibly issue a new order that the courts won’t deem unconstitutional.