Reince Priebus: ‘We’re not going to have a registry based on a religion’

Dylan Stableford
·Senior Writer

Incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus says President-elect Donald Trump’s administration is “not going to rule out anything” when it comes to immigration. But Priebus appeared to suggest the creation of a Muslim registry is not in Trump’s plans.

“Where systematic terrorism is taking place, where countries are harboring or in places where countries are harboring and training terrorists,” Priebus said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, “we’re going to temporarily suspend immigration from that country, or region, until a better vetting system is put in place.”

Trump told Yahoo News last year that he was open to the possibility of a database for Muslim Americans. The proposal was met with swift backlash and Trump distanced himself from the idea. But last week, a Trump policy adviser, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, said Trump was mulling a registry for immigrants from Muslim countries.

Kobach met with Trump at his golf course in Bedminster, N.J., on Sunday afternoon.

During his interview on CNN, Priebus was asked whether he agreed with retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn — Trump’s choice for national security adviser — who once tweeted that Americans’ “fear of Muslims is rational.”

“There are some people within that particular religion that we do fear,” Priebus said of Islam. “We don’t believe in religious tests and we are not blanketly judging an entire religion, but in fact we will try to pinpoint the problems and temporarily suspend [people from] those areas from coming into the United States until a better vetting system is in place.”

On ABC’s “This Week,” Priebus said that “clearly there are some aspects of that faith that are problematic, and we know them; we’ve seen it.”

On NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Priebus said Trump “believes that no faith in and of itself should be judged as a whole” but that “there are some people that need to be prevented from coming into this country.”

Asked by “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd whether he can “equivocally rule out a registry for Muslims,” Priebus responded: “Look, I’m not going to rule out anything. But, but I wouldn’t — we’re not going to have a registry based on a religion.”

“What we’re trying to do is say that there are some people, certainly not all people, Chuck, there are some people that are radicalized and there are some people that have to be prevented from coming into this country,” Priebus continued. “And Donald Trump’s position, President Trump’s position is consistent with bills in the House and the Senate that say the following: If you come, if you want to come from a place or an area around the world that harbors and trains terrorists, we have to temporarily suspend that operation until a better, better vetting system is put in place.”

He continued: “And when that happens, when a better vetting system is put in place, then those radical folks, or excuse me, they’ll be, they will not be allowed in, but then others will be allowed in. But only until that is done.”

Trump’s pick for attorney general, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, argued in favor of a religious test for immigrants on the Senate floor. “Many people are radicalized after they enter,” Sessions said last December.

“How do we screen for that possibility, if we cannot even ask about an applicant’s views on religion? Would we forbid questions about politics? Or theology?”

The same month, Trump ignited a firestorm of controversy by calling for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

The proposal, which came in the wake of the deadly mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., by a pair of suspected ISIS sympathizers, was altered by Trump at the Republican National Convention to a temporary suspension of “immigration from any nation that has been compromised by terrorism.”

Trump later called it an “expansion” of his original plan.

“I’m looking now at territory,” Trump said on “Meet the Press” on July 24. “People were so upset when I used the word ‘Muslim.’ ‘Oh, you can’t use the word ‘Muslim.’ Remember this. And I’m OK with that, because I’m talking territory instead of ‘Muslim.’”