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Trump Lied That Delta And Protesters Were To Blame For The Problems Over His Travel Ban

After a weekend of nationwide protests, Trump on Monday deflected blame for the widespread confusion and anger sparked by his executive order barring US entry for refugees and citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries.

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President Trump on Monday falsely said Delta Air Lines and protesters were to blame for the the mass outrage and confusion at airports nationwide this weekend, which was actually sparked by his executive order temporarily banning citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries to the US and suspending the refugee program for 120 days.

Trump blamed Delta's 5-hour system outage, peaceful protesters — and also, bizarrely, Sen. Chuck Schumer's "tears" — for the widespread chaos that erupted as travelers, immigration attorneys, airlines, judges, and custom officials struggled to interpret his executive order.

Only 109 people out of 325,000 were detained and held for questioning. Big problems at airports were caused by Delta computer outage,.....

protesters and the tears of Senator Schumer. Secretary Kelly said that all is going well with very few problems. MAKE AMERICA SAFE AGAIN!

Let's unpack this. There was a Delta system outage that caused delays and led to 280 total cancellations — on Sunday evening into Monday, the airline said.

In a statement, Delta said that its IT systems, which went down at around 6:30 p.m. Sunday, were restored a few hours later and all systems were back to normal shortly after midnight on Monday.

There were residual delays on Monday as well.

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The confusion over Trump's executive order, however, began on Friday night. He signed the order before 5 p.m. ET and it went into effect immediately — shortly after, an Iraqi man who had risked his life working as an interpreter for US forces was among the first immigrants blocked at New York's JFK airport.

When attorneys for the Iraqi man asked Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials who they could contact, one of the agents responded, "Mr. President. Call Mr. Trump," according to a lawsuit filed by the attorneys.

Reuters reported an exchange between two US lawmakers and a high-ranking border protection official over Iraqis detained at JFK, which also exemplified the confusion over the order.

When asked to clarify if the immigration ban prevented Iraqis from consulting with their lawyer, the border protection official said, "We are as much in the dark as everybody else."

Homeland Security staff were privy to the final details of the order only on the day that Trump signed it, sources told CNN, while Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly saw the details shortly before the order was finalized.

Trump's policy team also bypassed agencies like the Justice Department and Homeland Security who would have ordinarily provided operational guidance, according to CNN's report on the extent of the confusion within the administration.

The Department of Defense scrambled to identify Iraqis who should be exempt from the order, as Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis was not consulted before the order, defense officials told BuzzFeed News.

Passengers and families impacted by the ban — many were stranded at airports in the US and around the world — suffered long hours of uncertainty and anxiety as officials grappled with the order.

Reuters Staff / Reuters

An Iraqi woman, Iman Alknfosche, who arrived at JFK on Saturday was held for 30 hours before she was reunited with her daughters, her attorney told Reuters.

Sara Behbahani, a 28-year-old Iran born American citizen, told BuzzFeed News she went through a "humiliating" experience when she tried to fly back to the US from Copenhagen where she was repeatedly pulled out of the line so airport staff could verify if she could return to America.

"I asked why, and they said, ‘Because you were born in Iran,’” she told BuzzFeed News on Sunday. “I said I have a US passport, and they said, ‘Yes, but the rules keep changing by the minute. We’re not sure what’s going on.’”

Multiple reports emerged of families enduring anxiety and heartbreak as the fate of their loved ones' arrival and entry in the US appeared uncertain and unpredictable.

Ghassan Assali, a Syrian dentist in Pennsylvania, was on his way to the airport to pick up six of his family members flying to the US from Damascus on Saturday after being approved to immigrate, when he got a call from a US official informing him that his family had been barred from entering the country, the Wall Street Journal reported. He was not allowed to speak to them either.

“I feel like I am in a movie, it’s a nightmare," Assali told the WSJ.

And Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham issued a joint statement saying, "It is clear from the confusion at our airports across the nation that President Trump’s executive order was not properly vetted."

Clear from confusion at airports across nation that @POTUS's exec order was not properly vetted - such a hasty process risks harmful results

The senators said they were "particularly concerned by reports that this order went into effect with little to no consultation with the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security."

Conflicting information from the government and CBP officials about the status of green card holders under the order also added to the problems plaguing airport officials.

According to CBP guidance provided to airports, green card holders were not included in the ban and were permitted to return to the US. However Trump officials told reporters that green card holders would need to check with a US consulate to see if they could travel to the US. After nearly two days of confusion about green card holders, Kelly issued a statement Sunday saying they would not be included in the ban.

A federal judge who issued a stay preventing travelers in the US from being temporarily deported under the order, told the court Saturday, "I think the government hasn’t had a full chance to think about this."

In a statement on Sunday, Trump defended the executive order by comparing it to Obama's 2011 policy. Trump said Obama had "banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months."

However, an Obama administration official, Jonathan Finer debunked Trump's claim in Foreign Policy, saying that while there were "delays in processing" the flow of Iraqi refugees during a 2011 review of vetting procedures, there was "no outright ban" and refugees continued to be admitted to the US.

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Trump also blamed protesters for the problems, even though protests outside at least 10 major airports were largely peaceful and were accommodated by city officials and airport security.

Craig Ruttle / AP

While thousands protested peacefully outside airports in New York, DC, Dallas, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, and other cities, six protesters were arrested at Charlotte Douglas International Airport on Saturday night, according to local reports. Two protesters were arrested for blocking a roadway at LAX and were released soon after.

A scuffle reportedly broke out between protesters and Trump supporters at Portland International Airport during which one person was assaulted and "removed for medical care."

At New York's JFK airport, which witnessed one of the largest protests, Port Authority suspended the AirTrain's operation to prevent crowding, but the decision was reversed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who said, "the people of New York will have their voices heard."

There were no reports of protesters disrupting the arrivals process at any airport or sowing confusion about Trump's order.

Finally, Trump blamed Sen. Chuck Schumer's "tears" for airport problems referring to the Democrat lawmaker's emotional speech on Sunday condemning Trump's ban as "mean spirited and un-American."

NY Senator Chuck Schumer gets emotional when talking about Trump's refugee ban. "This executive order was mean spi… https://t.co/zTLRgoJpS5

Responding to Trump's tweet, Schumer's spokesperson told BuzzFeed News, "The Tweet on its face is laughable. The President’s policy, which will make us less safe, is not."

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Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Tasneem Nashrulla at tasneem.nashrulla@buzzfeed.com.

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