May 23, 2016 1:24 PM GMT
Donald Trump’s top foreign policy adviser has quietly opened backchannels within Muslim and Middle Eastern communities in the U.S. in an attempt to win over a small but increasingly important voting bloc.
Walid Phares, a top national security adviser for Trump, has been courting prominent Muslim Republicans and conservative Middle Eastern activists in the U.S.
Some Muslim Republicans and conservative Middle Eastern activists have also engaged with other top campaign officials about furthering Trump’s outreach to those communities.
...Trump’s critics have cited those remarks as evidence he’s racist or xenophobic. Trump has since softened his rhetoric on the ban, saying it’s merely a “suggestion.”
Phares described the ban as a statement about how seriously Trump views the terror threat, rather than a statement of policy. He said Trump will further explain and refine his position as he takes government briefings and meets with interested parties.
“Right now the ban is just a few sentences in a foreign policy announcement and a tweet, it’s not like he’s written books or published articles or delivered lectures on this,” Phares said. “He’ll continue to add context and distinction to his position as he gets new information.”
Phares said the campaign is only in the early stages of outreach to Muslims and Middle Easterners, and that a more public outreach effort – along the lines of Trump’s recently announced meetings with Hispanic groups – can be expected later this year...
...The American-Mideast Coalition for Trump is doing most of the heavy lifting right now in engaging Muslim Republicans and Middle Eastern conservatives on Trump’s behalf.
The group, which formed in mid-March after Trump won the Florida primary, is a coalition of Middle Eastern Americans that counts Muslims and Christians as members.
Co-founder Tom Harb said he fully supports Trump’s proposed Muslim ban. Fellow co-founder John Hajjar was less enthusiastic on that point, saying the proposal could have been worded more “artfully” and that he expects Trump will “further refine” his position now that he’s the likely nominee....