The chairman of the Republican National Committee on Sunday said that Donald Trump's long-standing proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States does not include a religious test, adding that the candidate has "pivoted" to a ban that is strictly geographic and focused on areas with concentrated terrorist training sites.
Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has not rejected outright the possibility of a religious test on Muslims, even as he has begun describing the ban geographically. His initial proposal specified that Muslims from around the world would not be allowed into the United States. Last month, he began indicating that the ban was more narrowly focused on countries with ongoing terrorist threats. But he and his campaign have been vague about the specifics of the ban, including on which countries fall into that category and whether only Muslims would be subject to immigration restrictions.
Reince Priebus, the RNC chairman, said Sunday that Trump has moved away from the initial proposal he outlined in December, which put forward a unilateral ban on all Muslims from entering the country. That ban was widely panned by critics as xenophobic and antithetical to freedom of religion.
“If you have seen the last few weeks, his position that he's put on the table in his position papers that are on his website and what he's been talking about is a temporary ban of immigration from countries that harbor and train terrorists,” Priebus said Sunday on CNN. “That's Donald Trump's position. There is no religious test on the table.”
“It is simply limited to countries that are harboring and training terrorists. And that's really where 75 percent of the American people are at,” he added. “He has pivoted to this position.”
Paul Manafort, Trump's chief strategist made similar comments Sunday. He dismissed the characterization of a geographic ban as a new stance, instead calling it “a deeper articulation of his position."
“Donald Trump's position on immigration is that the world is a mess, terrorism is rampant internationally, people want to come here and destabilize our country,” Manafort said Sunday on CBS. “He said, ‘In terrorist areas, geographic areas … filled with rebellion, we have to put a temporary suspension until we figure out what is going on.’”
Manafort was responding to a question about past comments by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence — Trump’s recently announced running mate — in which he called a unilateral Muslim ban “offensive and unconstitutional.” Manafort said that Pence and Trump see eye to eye on a geographic ban.
“Look, first of all, this team is not going to see eye to eye on everything. But in the issues you're raising, they're not disagreeing on fundamental things,” Manafort said during an interview on “Fox News Sunday.” “They're actually agreeing. They both agree: There needs to be a ban in terrorist countries.”