President Donald Trump defended his forthcoming executive orders that are expected to suspend the United States’ refugee program and halt the issuing of visas to citizens of certain countries, saying, “We can’t take any chances.”
“Right now, the FBI has over 1,000 terrorism investigations going on … and these are people that we let in,” Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity in an exclusive cable interview from the White House Thursday. “We don’t need this. Some people have come in with evil intentions. Most haven’t, I guess, but we can’t take chances.”
A draft executive order, which Trump could sign as early as Saturday, reportedly would halt the United States’ broader refugee program for 120 days and prohibit citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen from obtaining U.S. visas for at least 30 days.
“We’ve taken in tens of thousands of people. We know nothing about them. They can say they vetted them. They didn’t vet them, they have no papers. How can you vet somebody when you don’t know anything about them and they have no papers?” Trump asked.
Trump also defended his executive order to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a key promise of his presidential campaign.
“The Wall is necessary,” Trump said. “That’s not just politics, and yet it is good for the heart of the nation because people want protection and a wall protects. All you’ve got to do is ask Israel.”
The president also revisited the issue of torture, saying that he believes methods such as waterboarding are effective. However, Trump added that he would follow the advice of Defense Secretary James Mattis, who has argued against the use of such tactics.
“Look, I spoke with people who were in this world that we’re talking about,” Trump told Hannity. “They said, ‘Absolutely, it works.’ Now, General Mattis said that he doesn’t intend to use it. I’m with him all the way. Do I believe it works? Yes, I do.”
The president also swiped at the media, which he said was made up of “very hostile people” and “very angry people.”
“The media — much of the media, not all of it – is very, very dishonest,” Trump said. “Honestly, it’s fake news. It’s fake. They make things up.”
Trump covered a range of other topics in the interview, including his goal of repealing and replacing ObamaCare, which he called a horror show” and a “disaster.”
“It actually explodes [this year],” Trump said, “and I told [congressional] Republicans. I said, ‘Look if you really want to do something, just let it explode, and then [the Democrats will] come begging us to fix it.’ But that’s not the right thing for the public because we have to get it fixed.
“I do believe we’re going to have a much better plan, we’re going to have a cheaper plan, I think it’s going to be a lot less expensive.”
Trump also disclosed that he had decided on his nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court “pretty much in my mind.” He had previously said he would announce his choice Feb. 2.
The president blasted Democrats threatening to hold up his eventual nominee – and said he would want Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to use the so-called “nuclear option” if they filibuster.
“I would. We have obstructionists,” Trump said, complaining about Democrats’ treatment of other nominees, including Attorney General pick Jeff Sessions. The “nuclear option,” if pursued, would allow majority Republicans to seek approval of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee with just a simple majority, as opposed to a 60-vote threshold.
The president also said he was examining the case of Navy sailor Kristian Saucier for a possible pardon. Saucier, 29, was sentenced to a year in prison for taking photos of parts of a submarine’s nuclear propulsion system. As a candidate, Trump contrasted Saucier’s treatment with the FBI’s decision not to charge Hillary Clinton for using personal email while secretary of state.
“I think it’s very unfair in light of what’s happened with other people,” said Trump, who added that he wouldn’t even consider a pardon if not for the outcome of the Clinton investigation. “How can you have somebody else get away with such a tremendous amount and then this person who takes a picture of his desk on an old submarine? Look, if China or Russia wanted information on that submarine, they’ve had it for many years. That I can tell you.”