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Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump reiterated one of his most controversial policy proposals — that there should be an indefinite ban on all Muslim travel to the U.S. — in the immediate aftermath of the mass murder at a gay nightclub in Orlando on Sunday, and then again during a terrorism-focused speech on Monday.
Hours after news of the shooting in Orlando spread, Trump tweeted:
The attack at the gay club, which left 49 victims and the gunman dead, was perpetrated by Omar Mateen, a U.S. citizen. Via his 911 call, Mateen expressed loyalty to the terrorist organization ISIS. In his speech Monday, Trump argued that Mateen was able to carry out his attack because his family had been allowed to emigrate to the United States from Afghanistan. He then went further than his previous proposal, saying the ban would apply to travel from countries “where there is a proven history of terrorism.”
Trump’s hard push for his ban policy comes in contrast to recent interviews in which he characterized the ban as “a suggestion” and something he’d be willing to “back off” of. Trump introduced the policy last December with a speech and a press release.
Who supports the ban? A national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted in December after Trump’s announcement indicated that 57 percent of Americans opposed it. But during the primary season, 68 percent of Republican voters said they were in favor of a temporary ban on Muslims who are not U.S. citizens, according to analysis of exit poll results from 18 states. In March, an online poll conducted by Morning Consult said that 50 percent of all American voters supported a temporary ban.
However, the ban has virtually no public support among GOP lawmakers, even from those who have enthusiastically endorsed Trump's campaign. A few conservatives who are not currently in office — such as Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter and Sarah Palin — have publicly applauded Trump's approach, but Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan have outright condemned it. When the candidate first rolled out the proposal, Ryan declared, "This is not conservatism."
RNC chairman Reince Priebus has also not signed off on the policy, nor have the many Republican senators running for re-election this fall. Rep. Chris Collins, who was the first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump at a time when it was far from fashionable, has gone out of his way to distance himself from the ban policy. Trump's initial call for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States" also inspired intense international opposition, and led the British parliament to debate whether the presidential contender should be prohibited from visiting the U.K. in part because his policy could inspire acts of terrorism.
Some have speculated that Trump deployed the ban proposal at a time when it appeared that his campaign was starting to lose momentum to Sen. Ted Cruz in the crucial first GOP primary race in Iowa last winter. Trump ultimately lost that race, coming in second, but the Muslim ban policy continued to be a winner for him throughout the race, even though he was repeatedly criticized for it by virtually every other 2016 candidate, on both sides of the political aisle.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney has said the ban "goes against everything we stand for and believe in," while Sen, Marco Rubio called it "offensive and outlandish." Even New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has been one of Trump's most stalwart surrogates and is widely viewed as a high on the candidate's vice presidential shortlist, is on record calling the ban a "ridiculous position." Another prominent Trump ally and rumored VP candidate, Florida Gov. Rick Scott dodged the issue when asked about it during a press conference related to the Orlando massacre on Monday.
"That's a national issue that people are going to talk about," the Florida governor told MSNBC's Chris Jansing. "We outta know who's coming into our country, but right now we gotta think about how do we destroy ISIS.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders also roundly condemned Trump’s policy as "reprehensible, prejudiced and divisive" and an example of demagoguery. Cruz, who said a ban would not be his policy if elected president, did however stoke controversy of his own by suggesting patrols should be dispatched into "Muslim neighborhoods" to root out extremists.
Still, this level of opposition to a major policy proposal from a presumptive presidential nominee among members of his own party is unusual. Last year, Democratic Sen. Pat Leahy tried to shame his Republican colleagues by forcing a vote on an amendment to a terrorism bill which would prohibit religious litmus tests going forward for people seeking asylum in the U.S. It passed with broad GOP support, although four senators, including early Trump supporter Sen. Jeff Sessions, voted against it.
"I just wanted to point out that we could show to the rest of the world that we don't have religious tests," Leahy told Politico at the time. "I assumed this would be a no-brainer."
The Muslim ban proposal does have at least one prominent backer among active politicians —Robert Blaha of Colorado, GOP candidate for U.S. Senate. Blaha said he would "go beyond" Trump’s proposal.
“I want to go beyond just Muslims,” Blaha said at a GOP meeting in Fremont County. “And I’ll tell you why. The issue is not — the issue is partially a religious issue, but the real issue there is — the real issue is security. The real issue is we do not know who these people are. We don’t know where they’re coming from, we don’t know whether a terrorist state. We do not have the ability as a government right now to vet these people.”
Blaha, who has endorsed Trump's candidacy, is campaigning on reducing illegal immigration by 50 percent and has said we shouldn't allow people to enter the U.S. “when we do not know who they are.”
Meanwhile, legal experts have offered conflicting opinions of the proposed ban. While some say it would be unconstitutional when applied broadly to Americans, and in violation of international laws and agreements, there are also scholars who believe it could be legal, thanks in part to immigration laws that delegate power to the executive branch to exclude threats to security. Trump cited the power immigration laws give the president in his speech Monday.
However, back in December, Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made it clear that a ban on Muslims would be a non-starter on Capitol Hill.
MSNBC's Liz Johnstone contributed to this report.