WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, the top House Republican on homeland security issues, strongly criticized President Donald Trump's administration Monday for the chaotic rollout last month of his travel ban of mostly Muslim countries.
While chairing a hearing with Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, McCaul raised questions about the ban's implementation.
"The rollout of his executive order has been problematic," said McCaul. "It caused confusion here in Congress, across the country and around the world, and it caused real problems for people with lawful green cards or visas, who in some cases were already in the air when the order was signed."
A federal judge in Seattle suspended the order last Friday, a move that Trump strongly condemned. Critics of the ban have called it discriminatory against Muslims and clumsily enacted.
McCaul praised Trump "for trying to get things done quickly" and "fulfilling campaign promises," but raised questions about "a lack of coordination within the executive branch and with Congressional leaders like myself."
McCaul praised Kelly's course correction on the ban, which was mostly handled within the confines of the West Wing and not at the Cabinet level, according to media reports.
"I applaud you for quickly correcting what consider to be errors ... which went a long way to remedy this executive order," McCaul said.
McCaul repeatedly stressed that he had no part in drafting the order, a point of confusion in the first days of the rollout when former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani pointed to McCaul's advice as a genesis of the ban.
"We drafted a memo back last May or June to advocate to candidate Trump why a Muslim ban was unconstitutional and to look at vetting in high threat areas," McCaul said. "I had no participation in this executive order."
McCaul characterized the memo as "advocating a shift from a Muslim ban, which [Trump] was campaigning on, which we thought was unconstitutional, rather to an enhanced vetting process of immigrants and refugees based on risk – not religion – from high-threat areas."
Other Texans participated in the hearing, including U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, a Brownsville Democrat, and Will Hurd, a Helotes Republican, who focused their questioning on the proposed border wall. Hurd, a prominent GOP critic of a full border wall, advocated using resources on boosting manpower at the border rather than on constructing a wall across rivers and lakes.
U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Houston Democrat, also weighed in, with visceral criticism of the Trump administration's first weeks: "Fiery rhetoric of a campaign should not be the governing standard for this nation, and I believe this administration is off its wheels and needs to get back on its wheels."
U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Heath, used his questioning time to draw attention to a family in his district that was killed in a car wreck caused by a previously deported, undocumented driver.
He then referenced the "fake tears of one of our Democratic colleagues last week in calling for compassion for folks trying to come to this country from terror hotspots," an allusion to Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer.
"I think we need to finally start showing compassion for people who are already here, with real border security," Ratcliffe added.