GOP Senators Blast Trump's Immigration Ban: 'It May Help Terror Recruitment'

Several GOP senators join criticism as vast majority remain silent; Graham and McCain warn against ban becoming 'a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism.'

Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham speak to the media at the NATO-Georgia Joint Training and Evaluation Centre in Krtsanisi, just outside Tbilisi, Georgia, Jan. 2, 2017.
Shakh Aivazov, AP

WASHINGTON D.C. - Republican criticism of the Trump administration's controversial order to ban the citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States increased on Sunday as five more GOP Senators came out against the White House and called to revise the president's executive order. 

Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Tim Scott (R-SC) published a joint statement, in which they criticized the U.S. media by claiming that "some of what is being said and reported about the scope and implications of these measures is misleading," but added that they did have a number of concerns regarding Trump's immigration order

"We are seeking clarity on the changes to the Visa Waiver program, which is critical to the economies of our respective states," Rubio and Scott wrote, after multiple reports that citizens of the relevant seven countries were detained or denied entry to the United States, even if they held valid visas and green cards. 

The two senators also wrote that they were "uneasy about the potential impact of these measures on our military and our diplomatic personnel abroad, as well as those who put their lives on the line to work with us" – a clear reference to reports of Iraqis who had worked with the U.S. forces in their homeland and were now being denied entrance to the country they had risked their life working for. 

Earlier on Saturday, two other GOP senators, John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) also published a joint statement against Trump's executive order. "We fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism," they said, adding that Trump's executive order "may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security."

Graham and McCain have been among Trump's strongest critics within the Republican party ever since he began his run for the presidency in 2015. On Saturday, the president responded angrily to their recent criticism, accusing them on Twitter of "always looking to start world war III," an apparent reference to the other issue on which McCain and Graham are highly critical of Trump – his ties to Russia. 

Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, called on the administration to revise the executive order, and said that it has been "poorly implemented." Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) expressed a similar notion by stating that "this was an extreme vetting program that wasn't properly vetted."

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said that while Trump's executive order isn't a religious test, "it comes close to one which is inconsistent with our American character." Senator Corey Gardener (R-CO) added that "A blanket travel ban goes too far. I also believe that lawful residents of the United States should be permitted to enter the country." 

These critics joined the first three Republican senators to criticize Trump's executive order – Ben Sasse (R-NE), Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Susan Collins (R-ME,) all of whom spoke out on Friday. However, even after the comments expressed over the weekend, the vast majority of Republicans on Capitol Hill have so far remained silent on the subject, including some who were critical of Trump when he first raised the idea of a "Muslim ban" during his quest for the Republican nomination in late 2015.