White House counselor Sebastian Gorka clashed with CNN morning host Chris Cuomo over President Trump’s executive order on travel and immigration, which has been stymied so far by federal courts. Cuomo called Gorka a "purveyor of spin." “And then the president decides to be honest about it this morning. That is spin. You are the purveyor of spin because that was your message, that it wasn’t a ban, and it is untrue,” Cuomo told Gorka during an interview on CNN’s “New Day.” Cuomo was referring to a series of tweets made by the president on Monday morning in the wake of the third deadly Muslim terror attack in as many months on the United Kingdom, a key ally of the US.

In the first tweet, Trump wrote “People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need what it is, a travel ban!” In a second tweet, Trump criticized the Department of Justice, which drafted a second executive order that is seen as a milder version of the first that proved to be so controversial. Trump wrote: “The Justice Department should have stayed with the original travel ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to the Supreme Court.” Offering advice to DOJ, Trump wrote in a third tweet: “The Justice Department should ask for an expedited hearing of the watered down travel ban before the Supreme Court and seek a much stronger version!” Ultimately, the president wrote: “In any event, we are extreme vetting people coming into the US in order to help keep our country safe. The courts are slow and political!”

Gorka refuted Cuomo and argued that the executive order is not focused on religion because it does not include such Muslim-majority countries such as Egypt and Indonesia. He said that the Obama administration had flagged the seven countries -- Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — as “areas of concern.” These were the same countries flagged in Trump’s first executive order on travel from those Muslim-majority countries. “Is he a purveyor of spin, Chris?” Gorka asked.

In response, Cuomo said the Obama administration’s executive order was focused on travel to the countries in question. “The facts are not your friend here because that move with the executive order from the Obama administration was about travel to those countries. It was about who was coming out and why,” Cuomo said. Cuomo continued, “Your order is about Muslims, about targeting Muslims and keeping them out and allowing those who are not Muslims a carve-out to come in.” The Obama administration in 2016 added Libya, Yemen and Somalia to a list of "countries of concern," and put restrictions on Visa Waiver Program travel on individuals who had visited those countries after March 1, 2011.

If the Trump administration was focusing on “race or religion,” Gorka argued, it would include other countries such as Indonesia and Pakistan, which have the largest Muslim populations in the world. “Explain that logic to me, because this is where your spin fails. This is where the fake news propaganda collapses,” Gorka said. “Because if we had some dark, dread, ulterior motive, then those are the two first nations you would put on the list, not the seven nations that the Obama White House identified as greatest concern.”

Trump renewed calls this weekend for his executive order, which is currently halted by the courts, in tweets that followed the deadly terrorist attack on London bridge and the Borough Market district in London. While he referred to his executive order as a travel “ban” in Monday’s tweets, Trump previously said in February: “Everybody is arguing whether or not it is a BAN. Call it what you want, it is about keeping bad people (with bad intentions) out of country!”

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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