Trump's Travel Ban Made Homeland Security Deploy 'Crisis' Team to Manage Confusion, Documents Show

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Protesters march outside of San Diego International Airport on March 6, 2017 after Trump signed a revision of his travel ban. SANDY HUFFAKER/AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump's original travel ban on several majority-Muslim countries caused so much chaos in airports nationwide that the Department of Homeland Security sent a crisis action team to make sense of it, a report revealed Tuesday.

Documents obtained by Politico contradict the Trump administration's initial claims that the ban in January 2017 went smoothly. As mass protests at airports broke out over the abrupt detainment of travelers, DHS scrambled to enforce order that was not explained in Trump's new rule. 

“The National Operations Center (NOC) Crisis Action Team (CAT) activated at 0800 this morning to assist in facilitating DHS response and reactions to the Presidential Executive Order Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nations,” read a January 29 email to DHS officials.

DHS officers were told to redirect airports and airlines with questions about the ban to a phone number with a Washington, D.C. area code for the DHS National Joint Information Center, the released documents confirm. However, some airline workers said the phone line was unresponsive or continuously busy.

The confusion and subsequent critical response from DHS stemmed from the fact that Homeland Security officials didn't see the president's travel restrictions until he signed the executive order on January 27, one week into his presidency. The DHS crisis action team is used to coordinate communications and actions during massive incidents that involve federal, state, local, and private sector groups. 

The Trump administration defended the initial ban and claimed there was no confusion, despite the airport chaos showing otherwise."I think we were in pretty good shape on how it was implemented by the workforce," then-DHS Secretary John Kelly said. Federal judges across the country began blocking the initial ban almost immediately after it was implemented.

Trump has said the ban is necessary for national security and defended its rushed rollout on Twitter. "If the ban were announced with a one week notice, the 'bad' would rush into our country during that week. A lot of bad 'dudes' out there!" he wrote.

Trump has since signed two more revisions of the ban. The most recent travel ban issued by the White House in September placed restrictions on foreign nationals traveling to the United States from Chad, Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia and Yemen. It also included the non-Muslim "rogue states" of North Korea and Venezuela. The Supreme Court allowed the third version of the ban to take full effect in December.