Statements made before and after the election by Donald Trump and his allies about his travel ban have been giving the administration headaches as it defends the executive order’s constitutionality.
The argument that the ban is purely secular has not fared well with judges when the Trump campaign website stated in advance that its purpose was “preventing Muslim immigration,” which has sounded to a number of courts like an unconstitutional religion-based restriction.
The same contradiction keeps coming up in public, too.
Monday, for example, a reporter asked White House press secretary Sean Spicer, “if this White House is no longer calling this a ‘Muslim ban’ … why does the president’s website still explicitly call for ‘preventing Muslim immigration?’”
“I’m not aware of what’s on the campaign website,” Spicer responded.
At that particular moment, the website did indeed include “DONALD J. TRUMP STATEMENT ON PREVENTING MUSLIM IMMIGRATION.”
It went on: “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
But then, shazam, the text on the same Web page went blank. Nothing.
ABC’s Cecilia Vega appears to have been the first to notice. “Minutes after we asked the WH why the President’s campaign website still called for a Muslim ban, it appears the statement was deleted,” she tweeted.
That was just hours after judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which is reviewing a district-court ruling declaring the ban unconstitutional, questioned administration lawyers about “statements of the president on the campaign trail,” specifically the one someone tried to erase Monday, only to be told that they shouldn’t be looking at those.
“Is it still there today?” one of the judges asked the lawyer challenging the ban. The lawyer said it was there the last time he looked, a few weeks ago.
Looking at the page as of early Tuesday morning produced only this:
Note, however, the URL, which includes the words “preventing Muslim immigration.”
The Internet archive the “Way Back Machine” still houses the original statement: