Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill left a classified briefing about some of President Donald Trump’s executive orders Wednesday with a major take-away: Officials at the Department of Homeland Security were not prepared to enforce the executive action on immigration signed last Friday.
“It’s clear that while someone at DHS might have known this was coming, they were not prepared and were asked to implement immediately by the White House,” said McCaskill, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate’s Homeland Security committee. “The gathering of the appropriate officials to actually put guidance out and make this work didn’t begin until the order was signed – so no wonder it was as chaotic and rocky as it was.”
While she could not speak about everything discussed in Wednesday’s meeting –originally set to be a public hearing on Trump’s plan to construct a border wall until it became a classified briefing led by DHS officials about divisive executive orders – McCaskill revealed a few other things she learned.
She also cast doubt on the necessity of the immigration order. The Trump administration has claimed it is important to help thwart would-be terrorists attempting to enter the country.
“The order was not made as a result of any recommendation or threat assessment made to the White House,” she added.
But on Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly had disputed the idea that his department was left in the dark regarding Trump’s immigration order.
“This whole approach was part of what then-candidate Trump talked about for a year or two,” Kelly said. “So we knew it was coming. It wasn’t a surprise it was coming. And then we implemented it.”
Signed Friday, Trump’s executive order placed serious restrictions on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries for the next 90 days and halted admission of new refugees for 120 days, as well as indefinitely banning refugees from Syria.
The order, which many opponents viewed as a “Muslim ban,” sparked backlash throughout the country as thousands flooded airports from Virginia’s Dulles International Airport to the San Francisco International Airport to protest.
McCaskill sent out a pair of press statements this week in response to the controversy. On Monday, she, along with six other Democrats serving on her committee, requested an emergency meeting with Kelly. That occurred Tuesday with leadership from the House and Senate.
That was followed up by a statement from McCaskill on Tuesday decrying that Wednesday’s briefing would not be open to the public.
“I disagree with the decision to hold this briefing behind closed doors,” her statement read. “The public has a right to understand how these orders were written, who was involved, and how they are being implemented — and the answers to these questions do not involve classified material.”
Drew Pusateri, a spokesman for McCaskill, said the Missouri senator’s complaints will not be fully addressed until a public hearing on the issue is given.
Tuesday’s “meeting did not satisfy the request we put in the letter, nor did today’s,” he said. “Claire has asked for a public hearing, but it hasn’t been satisfied because both were classified.”