Trump, under fire, defends call to block Muslims, invokes World War II

As denunciations rained down on him from Washington and around the world, Donald Trump on Tuesday defended his call to block all Muslims from entering the United States, casting it as a temporary move in response to Islamic State terrorism and invoking President Franklin D. Roosevelt's actions toward Japanese, German and Italian aliens during World War II as precedent.

Critics ranging from the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, a Republican, to the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, a Democrat, assailed Trump's proposal as self-defeating and un-American. "Tell Donald Trump: Hate is not an American value," Hillary Clinton wrote on Twitter.

The super PAC supporting Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, unveiled its first attack ad against Trump, and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina called him a "xenophobic, race-baiting, religious bigot."

But Sen. Ted Cruz, who is vying for much the same base of support that Trump now enjoys, declined to join in the scolding. "I commend Donald Trump for standing up and focusing America's attention on the need to secure our borders," he said at the Capitol.

The morning after his remarks once again caused an uproar, Trump, who is handily leading the Republican presidential field in almost every poll nationally and in primary states, spoke in a string of interviews with television morning show hosts.

In a sometimes tense exchange with Joe Scarborough on the MSNBC show "Morning Joe," Trump insisted that fears of terrorism had made policing difficult in places like London and Paris, the site of the Islamic State attacks on Nov. 13 that killed 130 people.

"Paris is no longer the same city it was," he said, before adding, without citing any evidence: "They have sections in Paris that are radicalized where the police refuse to go there. They're petrified. The police refuse to go in there. We have places in London and other places that are so radicalized that the police are afraid for their own lives."


In the same interview, Trump cited Roosevelt's classification of thousands of Japanese, Germans and Italians living in the United States during the war as "enemy aliens." He said he was not endorsing something as drastic as the Japanese internment camps. But he nonetheless referred to three proclamations by which Roosevelt authorized government detainment of immigrants, and which led to the internment of thousands of noncitizen Japanese, Germans and Italians.

"This is a president highly respected by all; he did the same thing," Trump said. The nation was at war in the 1940s, he said, and it is now "at war with radical Islam."

A separate executive order by Roosevelt led to the wartime internment of more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent. But on ABC, Trump clarified that his proposal would not apply to U.S. citizens. "If a person is a Muslim, goes overseas and comes back, they can come back," he said. "They're a citizen. That's different. But we have to figure things out."

Trump's remarks quickly drew condemnation abroad. In London, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister David Cameron called them "divisive." The French prime minister, Manuel Valls, said on Twitter that Trump and others were using language that "stokes hatred: our ONLY enemy is radical Islam."

Trump said last week that he planned to travel to Israel and meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the coming weeks. On Tuesday, the columnist Chemi Shalev of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz wrote that even Netanyahu, who was accused of stoking Jewish fears of Arabs before his most recent election, had not gone so far.

"For some Jews, the sight of thousands of supporters waving their fists in anger as Trump incited against Muslims and urged a blanket ban on their entry to the United States could have evoked associations with beer halls in Munich a century ago," Shalev wrote.

Trump's call Monday for a ban on Muslims entering the United States came just hours after one poll was released showing that Cruz had overtaken him for the lead in Iowa, and less than a week after a husband and wife said to have been radicalized by the Islamic State killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California.

"Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life," Trump wrote in a statement.

It was the latest controversy from a candidate whose campaign has been marked by harsh rhetoric about some immigrant groups since he entered the race in June. Despite repeated and often hopeful predictions from his rivals and political analysts that his supporters would abandon him, such remarks have appeared to bond Trump's backers closer to him.

"We have to get a hand around a very serious problem," Trump said on MSNBC. "And it's getting worse. And you will have more World Trade Centers and you will have more, bigger than the World Trade Center, if we don't toughen up, smarten up, and use our heads."

Trump repeatedly declined to answer a question about whether he thought the Japanese interment camps went against American values.

On CNN, Trump insisted to his interviewer, Chris Cuomo, that Paris was now a city of fear. "I have people that have friends living in Paris," he said. "They want to leave; they're petrified."

Reaction from Republicans was mixed.

The party's national chairman, Reince Priebus, who during the summer privately asked Trump to tone down his remarks about Hispanic voters, said in an interview with The Washington Examiner, "I don't agree" with Trump. "We need to aggressively take on radical Islamic terrorism," Priebus said, "but not at the expense of our American values."

The television ad from Right to Rise, the super PAC supporting Bush, was its first mocking Trump, calling him too "impulsive and reckless" for the Oval Office. But it muted the force of the blow by also criticizing two other primary contenders, Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio. The ad did not specifically cite Trump's proposed Muslim ban.

Many Republican leaders have struggled with how to deal with Trump, who has tapped into a deep well of anger and frustration among voters who polls show have lost trust in their elected officials and in many institutions. But they are also concerned about the effect that Trump will have on the party's chances of recapturing the White House.

Some spoke out, saying Trump's ideas needed to be rejected.


"This is not conservatism," said Ryan, the House speaker and the Republican vice-presidential nominee in 2012. "What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for and, more importantly, it's not what this country stands for."

"Some of our best and biggest allies in this struggle and fight against radical Islamic terror are Muslims, the vast, vast, vast majority of whom are people who believe in pluralism, freedom, democracy, individual rights," Ryan said.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, in a radio interview, said late Monday that "this whole notion that somehow we need to say 'no more Muslims' and just ban a whole religion goes against everything we stand for and believe in."

Trump, in his interview with Scarborough, noted pointedly that he has set the terms of the Republican campaign so far.

"They've been condemning practically everything I say and then they come to my side," he said of his rivals. "They were condemning the wall, they were condemning illegal immigration, they were condemning all of the things I've been espousing. And now most of them are on my side."

Reid, the Democratic Senate leader, seemed to agree: "Trump is saying out loud what other Republicans merely suggest," he said on the Senate floor.