The SAO background briefing this evening lasted more than 45 minutes and there was a lot of discussion deep into details of the immigration executive order and its implementation. There were also complaints about the media.
There was extensive discussion about the impact of the EO for those with green cards and legal permanent residents (in particular in the first Q&A audio sent earlier). I would recommend listening to the full audio for people covering those issues.
In addition to that audio, here is only small a selection of notable quotes, all from a senior administration official:
"All three of President Trump's executive orders were approved by OLC. All three of President Trump's executive orders remain in full effect. And all three of President Trump's executive orders are being enforced by the Departments of State, Homeland Security, Justice and all other relevant departments and agencies across the federal government."
The SAO described the previously existing vetting procedures as "woefully inadequate."
"It would make sense to have a ban on non-essential travel from foreign nationals from seven countries previously deemed worthy of travel restrictions by the Obama administration"
The SAO said there was no "advance notice" of the order going out for clear reasons that he did not explicitly outline. "I think everybody here can use their imagination to imagine 25 reasons why that wouldn't make sense from a security standpoint," SAO said.
The SAO said that "the guidance from the beginning" has been that legal permanent residents (LPRs) were exempt from the immigration EO, although there was some discussion about that in the room.
"The proof of that is, as of, like, 12 o'clock this afternoon, 170 people applied for the waiver for LPRs and 170 people received the waiver for LPRs," SAO said.
SAO said "some of the confusion stemming from the green card issue is just semantic in nature," adding later "some of the confusion stems from the semantic debate about the meaning of the word exemption."
More from SAO: "Unless you are a citizen or a national of one of the seven counties, the executive order does not obtain to you is the bottom policy."
SAO praised the implementation of the order as having been done "seamlessly" and with "extraordinary professionalism."
The SAO said that over a typical 24-hour period 325,000 people enter the United States by air. "Of that, 109 people were set aside for further questioning for additional security screenings."
The SAO said that was in "24-hour period from the date of the EO signing."
The SAO called that a "fractional, marginal, miniscule, percentage of travelers to our airports on any given day."
The SAO said of the executive order, "It really is a massive success story in terms of implementation on every single level."
Asked about whether the administration had consulted Republicans in Congress, SAO said, "Republicans on Capitol Hill wrote it."
SAO added, "The top drafters of this were the top immigration experts from Capitol Hill"
SAO later spoke broadly about why the Trump administration is pursuing changes to immigration rules:
"The reality, though, is that the situation that exists today in parts of France, in parts of Germany, in Belgium, etcetera, is not a situation we want replicated inside the United States. The kind of large and permanent domestic terror threat that becomes multi-dimensional and multi-generational and becomes sort of a permanent feature, in case this, becomes a permanent feature of American life. We don't want a situation where, 20 to 30 years from now, it's just like a given thing that on a fairly regular basis there is domestic terror strikes, stores are shut up or that airports have explosive devices planted, or people are mowed down in the street by cars and automobiles and things of that nature."
Later from same SAO: "The United States is sovereign country. It is under no obligation to admit any particular person and we have a right to develop a system in which we're selecting immigrants that we think will be able to make positive contributions to U.S. society."
SAO added they are "extremely proud of what we have accomplished so far"
Toward the end, another SAO noted that "the number one job" of the government is "to keep its people safe."
"This isn't willy-nilly," SAO said of the executive order.