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Trump signs retooled travel ban

Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Without fanfare, President Donald Trump signed a scaled-back version of his controversial ban on many foreign travelers Monday, hoping to avoid a new round of lawsuits and outrage while fulfilling a central campaign promise. His order still bars new visas for people from six Muslim-majority countries and temporarily shuts down America's refugee program.

The revised order, signed with none of the flourish of his first version, eliminates some of the most contentious aspects in an effort to surmount the court challenges that are sure to come. Trump's first order, issued just a week after his inauguration, was halted by federal courts.

The new one leaves Iraq off the list of banned countries -- at the urging of U.S. military and diplomatic leaders -- but still affects would-be visitors and immigrants from Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Libya. It also makes clear that current visa holders will not be impacted, and it removes language that would give priority to religious minorities -- a provision some interpreted as a way to help Christians get into the U.S. while excluding Muslims.

The order won't take effect until March 16 despite earlier warnings from Trump and his aides that any delay would put national security at risk by allowing the entry of "bad 'dudes'" who want to harm the country.

The changes underscore the very different position the president finds himself in.

Five weeks ago, Trump dropped the first order with a bang, catching lawmakers and members of his administration by surprise. He signed the order in a high-profile ceremony at the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes as Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis stood by.

This time around, the president skipped the usual public ceremony altogether. Instead, the administration chose to have Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions serve as the public faces of the rollout at a brief press announcement.

"I think today was about the implementation of it," said Press Secretary Sean Spicer -- at a briefing off camera.

Legal experts say the new order addresses some of the constitutional concerns raised by a federal appeals court about the initial ban but leaves room for more legal challenges.

"It's much clearer about how it doesn't apply to groups of immigrants with more clearly established constitutional rights," said University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck.

"That's a really important step."

Trump officials say the goal hasn't changed: keeping would-be terrorists out of the United States while the government reviews vetting systems for refugees and visa applicants from certain parts of the world. Tillerson said, "It is the president's solemn duty to protect the American people, and with this order President Trump is exercising his rightful authority to keep our people safe."

The original travel ban led to instant chaos at airports as Homeland Security officials scrambled to interpret how it was to be implemented and some travelers were detained before being sent back overseas or blocked from getting on airplanes abroad.

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