DHS chief warns of ‘terrorist travel’
Alarming announcement backs up Trump’s case for temporary ban
Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly sounded a loud alarm Tuesday over an “unprecedented spike in terrorist travel” including to the U.S., moving to shore up the defense of the administration’s travel ban one day after President Trump’s tweets seemed to undercut his case before the Supreme Court.
The threat from terrorist “foot soldiers” is as great as ever, he said, and they are returning from training in Iraq and Syria home to Europe with orders to attack. Mr. Kelly said he expects some will try to reach the U.S. — but his hands have been tied by the federal courts.
The secretary dismissed accusations that Mr. Trump’s latest travel ban executive order discriminates against a religion, saying the president was relying on lists drawn up by Congress and the Obama administration to single out six countries for a 90-day halt.
“These are countries that are either unable or unwilling to help us validate the identities and backgrounds of persons within their borders,” he told the Senate Homeland Security Committee. “Bottom line, I have been enjoined from doing these things that I know would make America safe, and I anxiously await the court to complete its action, one way or the other, so I can get to work.”
He said he is “changing the culture”
Republican, has reiterated several times that he is “not a fan” of the president’s tweets.
Pressed by reporters about Mr. McConnell’s views, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the president “is the most effective messenger on his agenda.” He stressed that social media gives the president “an opportunity to speak straight to the American people, which has proved to be a very, very effective tool.”
The White House press corps also wanted to know if the tweets were officials statements.
“Well, the president is the president of the United States, so they’re considered official statements by the president of the United States,” said Mr. Spicer.
The insiders’ anger and discomfort didn’t faze Trump backers.
Ted Hayes, a civil rights activist and advocate for the homeless in Los Angeles, said the president had knocked the news media off their pedestal.
“It’s good for them to recognize that they can no longer be the Pantheon of Gods of the First Amendment,” Mr. Hayes said. “They keep talking about their First Amendment, but what about our First Amendment? They are abusing the First Amendment. I think what Donald Trump is doing is teaching them a lesson. All other politicians should learn the same thing from him.”
Mr. Trump’s use of social media helped galvanize grass-roots support during the presidential campaign. His aides claim more than 110 million followers across all platforms, including 31.7 million on Twitter alone. That is up from just 20 million the day he took office in January.
Former President Barack Obama still has him beat, with more than 90 million Twitter followers — though @BarackObama is a much less interesting read than @RealDonaldTrump.
Since he took office, Mr. Trump has been involved in spats with high-profile leaders, demanded criminal investigations, warned former FBI Director James B. Comey to tread carefully, set foreign policy and offered legal advice to his own attorneys.
Along the way, he has averaged more than five posts a day, deployed some 385 exclamation points, used “Fake News” 45 times and deleted some 27 messages — including last week’s famous “covfefe” tweet, which the White House insists wasn’t a mistake but was actually a message to a select group of people. They won’t say who that group is.
The derision voiced in newspaper op-ed pages and on TV news talk shows reached new heights Tuesday after Mr. Trump’s Twitter tiff with London Mayor Sadiq Khan in the wake of the deadly terrorist attack at the London Bridge.
He also blasted his own legal team at the Justice Department for defending a “watered down” and “politically correct” travel ban and said he wished they instead had defended his original policy — an executive order that he himself revoked.
Mr. Trump took to Twitter to fire back at the chiding.
“The FAKE MSM is working so hard trying to get me not to use Social Media. They hate that I can get the honest and unfiltered message out,” he tweeted.
A short time later, he hammered home his dissatisfaction with the news media.
“Sorry folks, but if I would have relied on the Fake News of CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, washpost or nytimes, I would have had ZERO chance winning WH,” he said.
The reaction to Mr. Trump’s tweets has illuminated the disconnect between the people and the press, said Karen North, director of the University of Southern California Annenberg Digital Social Media program.
“One of the beautiful things about social media is it allows the conversation to seem very personal,” said Ms. North, a social psychologist. “In all honesty, love him or hate him, he has created a persona and a sense that he speaks to people directly.”
She noted that the tension is not new between the Washington press corps and presidents who circumvent them; only the medium has changed.
The press balked at Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fireside chats, Ronald Reagan’s mastery of the photo-op and Bill Clinton’s preference for local news media. The American public, however, mostly liked it, she said.
“There is a desire and expectation for authentic communication,” said Ms. North. “It can be seen by some people — instead of being inconsistent and raising problems of uncertainty — it can be seen as a guy who speaks the truth and doesn’t care.”
Ken Crow, a national tea party leader based in Iowa who was an early Trump supporter, said Twitter is key to the president’s appeal, but he could benefit from moderation on social media.
“He needs to learn how to use his surrogates,” said Mr. Crow. “I’m not saying shut up. I’m not saying take his iPhone away from him. But he does need to tone it down a bit.”
Other Trump supporters doubted his tweets were damaging and dismissed his attorneys’ fears that he has hurt his own case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
“That’s the ungenerous appraisal of Trump’s opponents,” said Craig Keller, a conservative activist in Seattle. “That criticism is coming from the left wing of the Republican Party. That criticism is coming from the left wing of the left wing, and it’s not coming from average, silent-majority Americans who are actually giving him a chance.
“They say give peace a chance. Let’s give Trump a chance,” he said.
Sue Payne, a Trump supporter in Maryland, said the only people upset by the president’s tweets are his opponents, including those in the Republican Party, whom she referred to as “RINOs,” or Republicans In Name Only.
“He’s not hurting his case with his supporters and the people who stood in line six and eight hours to hear him at a rally. He might be hurting his case with the likes of Juan McCain, who ought to have been out of the Senate 15 years ago,” said Ms. Payne, referring to Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and frequent critic of Mr. Trump. “He might be offending a few RINOs, and the more RINOs he offends, the better I like it.”
ALERT: Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly said the threat from terrorist “foot soldiers” is as great as ever and expects some will try to reach the U.S.
President Trump’s tweeter feed is his way of circumventing the mainstream media and speaking directly to the American people, his staunch supporters argue.