“We’re up against an enemy that celebrates death and totally worships destruction—you’ve seen that,” Trump said Monday while speaking before military leaders and personnel at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. That threat, he suggested, was the reason he signed an executive order indefinitely suspending the Syrian refugee program and temporarily banning travel of non-U.S. citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries. “ISIS is on a campaign of genocide committing atrocities across the world.”
Last week, Trump’s immigration order was suspended by a federal judge in Seattle, who argued that the government provided no rational basis for its ban. On Monday, Trump again failed to provide evidence to support the policy. While the president cited 9/11, as well as terrorist attacks in Boston, Orlando, and San Bernardino as proof that “radical Islamic terrorists are determined to strike our homeland,” Trump’s travel ban would not have prevented any of those attacks. The 9/11 attackers were primarily from Saudi Arabia, as well as the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, and Egypt—all countries unaffected by the ban. The Boston bombers lived in Kyrgyzstan, and one was a U.S. citizen—as was the Orlando nightclub shooter and one of the San Bernardino shooters (the other was born in Pakistan—also not on the list).
In true Trump form, the president’s speech quickly devolved into an anti-media tirade. “It’s gotten to a point where it is not even being reported and in many cases, the very, very dishonest press does not want to report it,” he claimed, citing no evidence. In fact, media reports of Islamic terrorist attacks in the U.S. and in Europe have typically been weeks-long, exhaustive affairs—unlike the fleeting coverage that was given to a right-wing terrorist attack on a mosque in Quebec last week, which Trump chose not to address. But Trump went on to suggest that the media have a sinister rationale for not covering such events. “They have their reasons, and you understand that,” he said, employing the same vague, suggestive language he has used to connect Barack Obama to Islamic extremists in the past.
Asked during the daily White House briefing to detail which under-reported terrorist attacks Trump was referring to, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said he would provide a list later. “There’s a lot of instances that have occurred where I don’t think they’ve gotten the coverage they deserve,” he said.
The president’s remarks are redolent of past attacks on critics of his immigration policy. Last week, after his executive order was suspended by U.S. District Judge James Robart, Trump accused the “so-called judge” of potentially enabling terrorists, intimating that Robart would be personally responsible if an attack occurred on American soil after the ban was lifted. “The judge opens up our country to potential terrorists and others that do not have our best interests at heart,” Trump tweeted on Saturday. On Sunday he resumed his attacks on Robart. “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril,” Trump tweeted. “If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”
Trump’s broadside against the media was not his first in a national security setting, either. Last month, the president came under fire when a speech during his first visit to C.I.A. headquarters turned into a similar attack on journalists. While standing in front of the agency’s Memorial Wall, a tribute to C.I.A. service members who lost their lives in the line duty, Trump began ranting about what he claimed was the inaccurate coverage of his inauguration crowd size and falsely blamed the press for heightened tensions between him and the U.S. intelligence community. John Brennan, the former director of the C.I.A., called the speech a “despicable display of self-aggrandizement.”