Rep. Peter King said Sunday he supported President Donald Trump’s executive order curbing the entry of refugees and legal immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries, but said he played no role in helping craft the policy.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani had said on Fox News Saturday night that he, King and others helped Trump come up with the executive order after Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States.
King (R-Seaford) said Giuliani was mistaken. King said he and Giuliani were part of a group of about 15 people who met with Trump in August to talk about terrorism, but a ban on people from certain countries or on Muslims wasn’t discussed.
“I was talking about Islamic terrorism. The question of executive orders didn’t come up,” King said in a telephone interview Sunday morning. “I talked about . . . the need for more surveillance, supporting NYPD’s program. Nothing at all about an executive order.”
King said Giuliani may have been referring to an October meeting, which he didn’t attend.
Giuliani told Fox host Jeanine Pirro, “Let me tell you the whole history of it. When he [Trump] first announced it, he said ‘Muslim ban.’ He called me up and said, ‘Put a commission together. Show me the right way to do it legally.’ I put a commission together with Judge [Michael] Mukasey, with Congressman [Michael] McCaul, Pete King, a whole group of other very expert lawyers on this, and what we did was, we focused on, instead of religion, danger.”
King said he supports Trump’s executive order, including the selection of the seven countries of origin for the “extreme vetting” of refugees and others seeking U.S. entry and prioritizing of Christians in refugee admissions.
King said that religious-based priority would not be a constitutional issue.
“I don’t think the Constitution applies to people coming in from outside the country, especially if there is a logical basis for it,” King said, though civil rights attorneys have challenged that interpretation.
The executive order, issued Friday, suspended entry of all refugees for 120 days. Syrian refugees are barred indefinitely, and visitors from seven countries — Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen — for 90 days. A series of federal court rulings, including from U.S. District Court Judge Ann Donnelly in the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn, blocked deportations of individuals in transit or already at U.S. airports.
King said questions could be raised about Trump’s rollout of the order — noting specifically the confusion over blocking green-card holders from entry.
The implementation of the policy was “probably as good as can be,” he said. “Any time you have a significant change, there’s going to be challenges.”
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) supports the executive order, but said there were “challenges” over how it was implemented, including the detention at Kennedy Airport on Saturday of an Iranian doctoral student at Stony Brook University. She was released Sunday afternoon.
“It’s important that no one responsible for enforcing this new executive order misapplies the guidance they’re getting from their supervisors,” he said in an interview.
He stopped short of criticizing Trump directly. “This isn’t a moment in time where we should be wasting energy in assigning blame to anyone responsible for implementing the order,” he said.
Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) cited the importance of the government ensuring security, but he said in a statement, “This issue cannot become an excuse for discrimination. I am adamantly opposed to targeting whole populations of people based upon their religion. It is un-American.”