President Trump tweeted loudly and clearly on Monday, insisting that his executive order banning travel from certain countries is, in fact, a “travel ban.”
He then repeated the term in a second tweet.
Do those two words really matter in characterizing Trump's executive order? Or are we just being picky?
In this case, it isn't just picking apart words. Trump's language, and that of some of his aides, has been repeatedly cited by judges in U.S. district courts that have blocked the travel ban. In particular, the federal judges have cited Trump's campaign trail speeches, in which he promised a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
Referring to his most recent executive order as a “watered down” version of the original could spell trouble for the Trump administration, too.
Adding to that, Trump's latest tweets also undermine his own aides' attempts to defend the ban. Below, we've collected several instances of Trump officials directly denying that the travel ban is, well, a travel ban.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly
Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly held a news conference on Jan. 31, after the rollout of Trump's first travel ban, to insist several times that the president's executive order was not a “ban.”
“This is not a travel ban; this is a temporary pause that allows us to better review the existing refugee vetting system,” Kelly said at the beginning of his statement. He went on to insist that the ban was not focused specifically on Muslims. “This is not — I repeat, not — a ban on Muslims … religious liberty is one of our most fundamental and treasured values.”
White House press secretary Sean Spicer
Like Kelly, Spicer appeared in front of the media in the wake of the first executive order and went out of his way to parse words.
“First of all, it's not a travel ban,” Spicer said during his daily briefing on Jan. 31 at the White House. “That's not a ban. What it is, is to make sure that the people who are coming in are vetted properly … a ban would mean people can't get in.”
“It's not a travel ban. It's not a Muslim ban,” he went on to insist. When pushed on the fact that Trump himself had referred to it as a “ban,” Spicer said Trump was simply using the media's words.
Trump's own Justice Department lawyers
Lawyers from the Department of Justice are tasked with arguing in favor of Trump's travel ban in courts. During arguments at a federal appeals court in Virginia, acting U.S. solicitor general Jeffrey B. Wall argued that Trump's campaign trail statements shouldn't be taken into consideration now that he's president.
“Candidates talk about things on the campaign trail all the time,” Wall said, attempting to deflect the president's own words.
Judges did not accept Wall's argument, becoming the second court to strike down portions of the ban.