ABC News(WASHINGTON) — White House spokesman Sean Spicer dismissed concerns being raised by career diplomats over President Donald Trump’s new executive order restricting immigration from several predominantly Muslim countries, telling them to “either get with the program, or they can go.”
ABC News first reported Monday morning that dozens of American foreign service officers and other diplomats around the world were preparing to file a formal objection to the executive order, which restricts Syrian refugees and, on a temporary basis, other immigrants from entering the United States.
Scores more could end up signing onto the memo before it’s transmitted to Washington, although the time frame for filing is not clear.
Use of dissent memos is so serious that former Secretary of State Warren Christopher warned diplomats in 1995 that they are “handled at the highest levels of government” and should be “well-grounded and well argued.” According to a State Department official, the agency usually receives four or five dissent memos each year, but it is abnormal for one to be received only two weeks into a new administration.
At the briefing with White House reporters this afternoon, Spicer suggested the concerned diplomats “don’t understand the president’s goal.”
“This is about the safety of America, and there is a reason that the majority of Americans agree with the president,” Spicer said. “These steps are frankly common sense steps … to make sure we’re never looking in the rear view mirror saying we should have done something like this.”
But in a draft of the memo reviewed by ABC News, concerned diplomats say Trump’s executive order will actually do more harm than good to U.S. homeland security.
“This ban … will not achieve its stated aim to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States,” warned the draft memo.
Instead, the executive order will expand anti-American sentiment and “immediately sour relations” with key allies in the fight against terrorism, particularly many of the countries whose citizens are now blocked from traveling to the United States, according to the draft.
Trump’s order indefinitely blocks Syrian refugees from coming to the United States, and it suspends immigration from six other countries still struggling to defeat terrorists within their borders: Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Iran, Libya and Sudan.
The governments of those largely Muslim countries see the White House move as an attack on Islam. By “alienating” such allies, the U.S. government will lose access to valuable intelligence and counterterrorism resources, the draft said.
At Monday’s White House briefing, Spicer said concerns and challenges with implementing President Trump’s new executive order have “been blown way out of proportion and exaggerated.”
“I know the president appreciates the people who serve this nation and the public servants, but at some point — if they have a big problem with the policies that he’s instituting to keep the country safe — then that’s up to them to question whether or not they want to stay,” Spicer added.
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