Has Trump shifted his stance on banning Muslims from US?

The chair of the Republican National Committee says that Donald Trump no longer proposes a religious test for entry into the United States.

David Zalubowski/AP/File
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks in Denver on July 1. Americans are divided on the presumptive Republican nominee’s proposed temporary ban on Muslims from other countries entering the United States.

Donald Trump redefined the parameters of a temporary ban on all Muslims entering the United States (he first called for in December), saying Sunday there should be “extreme vetting” of all persons from “terror” states.

When asked about the policy on CBS’s “60 Minutes” by Lesley Stahl Sunday, on the eve of the Republican National Convention, Mr. Trump said, "We’re gonna do territories."

“There are territories and terror states and terror nations that we're not gonna allow the people to come into our country. And we're gonna have a thing called ‘extreme vetting,'"the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said in the interview, with Mike Pence, his running mate and the governor of Indiana, next him. “They’re gonna come in, and we’re gonna know where they came from and who they are.”

Mr. Pence – who tweeted in December Trump’s original policy was “offensive” and “unconstitutional” – told Ms. Stahl he is now “comfortable” with it.

Trump and Pence’s revised proposal is in line with the views of other Republican heavyweights such as former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. Contrary to former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s assertion that Trump doesn’t represent Republicans, this unified view, as well as a poll just before the attack in Nice, France, shows Trump’s policy does.

"If it was true that Trump did not represent Republicans broadly defined, you would think Republicans would look different; they don't," Douglas McAdam, a sociology professor at Stanford University who studies American politics, told Reuters. “He seems to be resonating with Republicans generally."

Trump first called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” in December, five days after the shootings in San Bernardino, Calif.

In June, the day after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, it was unclear in a policy speech Trump gave in Manchester, N.H., if he softened or strengthened the policy. He called for a temporary ban on "certain people coming from certain horrible – where you have tremendous terrorism in the world, you know what those places are.” The Washington Post’s Jenna Johnson wrote that “at the time, it appeared that Trump was expanding his ban to include more people, not limiting its scope.” 

Trump’s national finance chair Steven Mnuchin said two weeks later, referring to the speech, that the proposed ban isn’t about religious discrimination.

"It is about terrorism,” he said. “It is about Muslims from countries that support terrorism.”

On Sunday, Trump then revised the parameters of his policy further on “60 Minutes,” which aired hours after Mr. Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, told CNN Trump has “pivoted” from his proposed ban on Muslims.

Priebus said “there is not religious test on the table. Trump has called for a temporary ban on immigration from countries that harbor and train terrorists until the US has a better vetting system, Priebus told CNN.

The policy shift comes days after Mr. Gingrich, considered a frontrunner to be Trump’s running mate before the presumptive nominee chose Pence, called for all Muslims in the US to be tested for their beliefs.

Gingrich said Thursday the US “should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in Sharia, they should be deported.”

“Sharia is incompatible with Western civilization,” he said, on Fox News’s “Hannity.”

In a Facebook chat Friday, Gingrich said his comments were not "about targeting a particular religion," but "this is about looking for certain characteristics that we have learned painfully time after time involve killing people."

He added that "if you are a practicing Muslim and you believe deeply in your faith, but you're also loyal to the United States and you believe in the Constitution, you should have your rights totally completely protected within the Constitution."

President Obama, without naming Gingrich, said Friday the call to expel Muslims who believe in Sharia law is "repugnant."

But a Reuters/Ipsos online poll conducted in the month before the attack in Nice suggests not all Americans agree with Obama. Thirty-seven percent of Americans, of which 58 percent are Trump supporters, said they have a "somewhat unfavorable" or "very unfavorable" view of Islam.

The poll shows 78 percent of Trump supporters and 36 percent of Hillary Clinton supporters said that when compared to other religions, Islam was more likely to encourage acts of terrorism.

This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters. 

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