- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 29, 2017

President Trump defended his new extreme vetting policy Sunday in the face of severe pushback from judges, members of Congress and the press, saying President Obama did much the same thing when he put a pause on Iraqi refugees for six months in 2011.

He also bristled at accusations that his policy, which halts admissions from seven countries with a history of terrorism, is a Muslim ban, pointing to what he said are 40 other majority-Muslim countries that weren’t affected by his executive order Friday.

Mr. Trump also said the U.S. will begin issuing visas after his administration stiffens vetting procedures over the next 90 days.

“America has always been the land of the free and home of the brave. We will keep it free and keep it safe, as the media knows, but refuses to say. My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months,” he said.

Federal judges have poked at his policy, ordering him to allow new arrivals already approved for visas to remain in the U.S.

But the crux of Mr. Trump’s order, which halts the issuance of new visas, remains in effect.

Mr. Obama in 2011 imposed a six-month pause on Iraqi refugees after the FBI concluded that terrorists had managed to exploit the program. One person was admitted even though his fingerprints were found on an improvised explosive device in Iraq.

Problems persisted even after that. Two men who entered as refugees from Iraq — including one who’d most recently lived in Syria — were charged with terrorism-related crimes a year ago.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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