By Michael Hernandez
The actions of U.S. border officials in implementing President Donald Trump's travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries were legal and professional, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said Tuesday amid controversy surrounding its handling of a biting report.
“The Department’s many officials conducted themselves professionally and in a legal manner as they implemented an Executive Order issued by the President," department spokesman Tyler Houlton said in a statement to Anadolu Agency.
The defense comes a day after a letter from the department's inspector general to lawmakers was posted online, alleging impropriety surrounding the implementation of the travel ban.
In it, DHS Inspector General John Roth said Customs and Border Protection agents "violated two separate court orders" that limited the implementation of Trump's travel ban on the seven Muslim-majority countries.
In breaking with the White House's narrative of how Trump's order was implemented, Roth said departments responsible for implementation "had virtually no warning that the [Executive Order] was to be issued, or the scope of the order" and that basic questions were left unanswered when it went into effect.
The findings are part of an 87-page report Roth said he finished in early October but has stalled as Department officials weigh blocking it over material that may be covered under attorney-client privilege, or a separate privilege known as "deliberative process”.
Roth wrote that he is "particularly troubled" with the prospect of the department invoking deliberative process.
"Invoking the deliberative process privilege, in this report and in future reports, would significantly hamper my office's ability to keep ‘Congress fully and currently informed about problems and deficiencies' of the Department as required by the Inspector General Act," he wrote.
Regarding his finding that the department violated two court orders, he said if the privilege is invoked, he will be unable to lay out the factual basis for how he came to that conclusion.
Houlton said material within the report "is covered by privileges afforded by well-recognized law.
"This should come as no surprise as many of the activities in implementing the Executive Order were conducted amidst a large number of lawsuits and, later, court orders that shaped the Department’s response,” he said.