McCain, Graham say they fear Trump's travel order will become 'self-inflicted wound'

U.S. Senator John McCain (L) listens as Senator Lindsey Graham speaks during a news conference in Riga, Latvia December 28, 2016.
Ints Kalnins | Reuters

Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham on Sunday denounced President Donald Trump's executive order on travel from several Muslim-majority countries, calling it "hasty" and warning that it could prove counterproductive in the fight against terrorism.

McCain, Arizona's senior senator and the GOP's 2008 presidential nominee, and Graham, a South Carolina politician who also competed briefly for the 2016 nomination, are both considered hawkish on national security. However, they frequently buck their party on key issues, which in the past has drawn the ire of grassroots conservatives.

They join several of their GOP Senate colleagues, including Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine and Rob Portman of Ohio, in criticizing the measure. The White House has defended the order, arguing it is necessary to properly vet people coming into the U.S. from nations with terrorism concerns.

Late Friday, Trump signed the order, which indefinitely bars Syrian refugees from entering the country. It also suspends all refugee admissions for 120 days and blocks citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the country for 90 days.

The move sparked confusion and protests at airports nationwide, as some lawful visa holders from those countries were detained, including an Iraqi who helped American military efforts.

The Department of Homeland Security said the order remains in place despite a court order late Saturday ordering a stay on the deportation of visa holders.

"It is clear from the confusion at our airports across the nation that President Trump's executive order was not properly vetted. We are particularly concerned by reports that this order went into effect with little to no consultation with the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security," said the two centrist Republicans in a joint statement.

McCain and Graham said that "such a hasty process risks harmful results," criticizing the order for causing detentions of legal permanent residents and refugees who were already vetted by the government.

The senators said that they fear it will become a "self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism."

"This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country. That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security," McCain and Graham said.