The recently retired Customs and Border Protection Chief, Gil Kerlikowske, said Monday the White House claim that it had been working with the Department of Homeland Security on the executive order for weeks is simply untrue.
“I don’t believe anyone was talked to about a travel ban for weeks,” said Kerlikowske, who retired January 20.
He said that no one from the transition team ever contacted him and there were only two short meetings with members of his staff and the transition team where the contemplation of a travel ban was never brought up.
“There was never a conversation with the transition team, which seems odd given the fact this isn’t a cabinet level position — this is an operational office.”
CNN has reached out to the White House for comment and has not yet gotten a response.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday barring travelers from seven majority Muslim countries from entering the US, delaying acceptance of refugees for at least 120 days and banning Syrian refugees indefinitely. Trump had pushed for stricter vetting of refugees as well banning some foreign nationals from entering the country while he was a presidential candidate.
Kerlikowske added “this is the type of operation affecting thousands of employees and multiple international airports with people from lots of countries. You need to carefully orchestrate and plan it. ”
He said typically with an executive order of this magnitude would take a “huge amount of organization” to notify tens of thousands of employees and give them the protocols about how to deal with the people.
“It’s one thing to sign an executive order and another to have it reach the level of a CBP agent working a booth at JFK,” Kerlikowski said. He added “I can’t think of a thing that puts CBP officers in a more difficult position than a shoot-from-the-hip policy.”
Separately, a US official told CNN Monday that Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff never saw the final version of the executive order, “Protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States” before Trump signed the order on Friday at the Pentagon.
A federal judge in New York blocked part of Trump’s order on immigration Saturday, ruling that authorities could not remove individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries who had arrived in US airports after the order had been issued.
US Judge Ann M. Donnelly held that the petitioners had a “strong likelihood of success” in establishing that their removal “violates their rights to Due Process and Equal Protection guaranteed by the United States Constitution.”
Court papers said Customs and Border Patrol authorities did not allow the lawyers to meet with two men who were detained, Hameed Khalid Darweesh and Haider Sameer Abdulkaleq Alshawi, and told them to try reaching Trump. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-New York, and fellow New York Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler said they attempted to speak to Darweesh and Alshawi at JFK’s Terminal 4 earlier Saturday but were denied.
“When Mr. Darweesh’s attorneys approached CBP requesting to speak with Mr. Darweesh, CBP indicated that they were not the ones to talk to about seeing their client. When the attorneys asked, ‘Who is the person to talk to?’ the CBP agents responded, ‘Mr. President. Call Mr. Trump,'” the court papers read.