As protests and chaos unfolded at the nation's airports in late January after President Trump's first travel ban went into effect, Homeland Security officials directed their staff to not speak with members of Congress and to ignore questions from immigration attorneys, according to a report Wednesday night.
The Daily Beast obtained directives from officials at Customs and Border Protection, which refused to answer questions about the travel ban in the early hours after it was implemented -- before federal courts blocked the executive order.
"As stated on the call earlier today, you and your staff are NOT to engage with the media or Congressional representatives at this time," Todd Owen, the executive assistant commissioner of CBP's Office of Field Operations, emailed his staff at 7:49 p.m. on Jan. 28. "Please make sure your subordinate Port Directors are following this direction. Please report any such requests to acting AC[REDACTED] from Congressional Affairs. Thank you."
Another email, sent by a CBP official whose name was redacted, reveals the agency sought to ignore questions posed by immigration attorneys.
"Please be aware that various locations around the country have begun receiving a high volume of calls from various individuals and others claiming to be attorneys regarding the recent Executive Order (EO)," read the email sent out on Feb. 1 just after 3 p.m. "The callers appear to be reading from a script and they begin by identifying themselves, state they are calling regarding the EO and proceed to ask if we are following the law, the EO and ask how many people we are currently detaining."
The official added, "This is most likely a form of telephonic protest to the EO."
"Please advise all your personnel not to engage the callers nor respond to any questions," the email continued.
The original ban prevented travelers, including U.S. legal residents, from entering the U.S. if they came from one of seven majority-Muslim countries.
Federal courts blocked the ban, and the Trump administration later revised it in a more limited fashion, including by permitting legal permanent residents. The Supreme Court allowed parts of the revised ban to go into effect until it reviews the legality of the executive order this fall.