Donald Trump appeared to soften his tone on two critical campaign promises on Saturday, saying his supposed blanket ban on Muslims entering the United States wouldn’t really be a full-on prohibition as he also walked back promises of mass deportations.
The day began with the presumptive Republican nominee appearing to contradict his vow to fully ban Muslims from entering the United States, telling reporters on a golf course in Scotland that he wants to restrict entry by people from a number of “terror countries.” That came after he said that it “wouldn’t bother me” if a Scottish Muslim entered the United States. Which countries would he consider to be “terror countries”? Trump didn’t specify. “They’re pretty well-decided. All you have to do is look!”
Even then, though, it didn’t sound like Trump was saying citizens from certain countries should be fully banned, suggesting there could be a vetting process that would allow exceptions. “I don’t want people coming in from the terror countries. You have terror countries! I don’t want them, unless they’re very, very strongly vetted.”
Even without the details, it appeared to mark quite a shift from his previous written-down position of “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” That statement is still on his website, but Trump press secretary Hope Hicks confirmed that this is indeed the policy, although she said it wasn’t really new.
Hicks said in an email that her boss took this new position—which is a dramatic scaling back of the position he first took in early December—during a policy speech nearly two weeks ago. In that speech, Trump did not mention Muslims and called for a temporary ban on “certain people coming from certain horrible—where you have tremendous terrorism in the world, you know what those places are.” At the time, it appeared that Trump was expanding his ban to include more people, not limiting its scope.
Hicks wasn’t alone. Other staffers appeared to want to spin it into a non-news story, saying that’s what Trump has been advocating for weeks. “It is about terrorism and not about religion. It is about Muslims from countries that support terrorism,” National Finance Chairman Steven Mnuchin said.
Later, in an interview with Bloomberg, Trump implied he would not pursue a policy of mass deportations because he has “the biggest heart of anybody.” He also criticized President Obama’s policies on the issue, saying he “has mass deported vast numbers of people—the most ever, and it’s never reported. I think people are going to find that I have not only the best policies, but I will have the biggest heart of anybody.” When he was asked specifically about whether he would pursue a policy of “mass deportation,” Trump was direct: “No, I would not call it mass deportations.” Trump had previously called for deporting the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants who are currently living in the United States.