John Kelly, Homeland Security Secretary, said that Trump’s executive order was not a travel ban but a temporary pause. He also added that he learned about the executive order’s content two days before it was signed.
Speaking at a press meeting he denied that it was a ban on Muslims, and denied that the order had caught his department off guard resulting in chaos at airports. He said he knew that Trump was going to bring it in as he spoke about “extreme vetting” on the campaign trail.
He said, “People on my staff were generally involved. I guess probably Wednesday I think we learned, Tuesday or Wednesday, that it would probably be during the week that it would be signed out. As you could imagine copies go back and forth and they’re tweaked right up to the last minute.
“I think probably Thursday we found out it was going to be signed the next day. Certainly If you really want to know what’s in the executive order, just read the newspaper the day before and you’d find out.”
Kelly was asked numerous questions about the report including a claim that he learned about it while on a flight during a conference call to the White House. Again he denied that was true.
When questioned on his input he said that he had a look at two redrafts and said his input was minimal. Kelly said the report came on a close hold basis meaning that it only went to those that needed to see it.
He added little to information that is not already public, stating that they were developing extreme vetting procedures and this was what temporary vetting might look like.
He defended the orders overall saying it was in the interests of national security, saying, “We cannot gamble with American lives. I will not gamble with American lives.”