'Our country has no management'—and here I thought that was good [UPDATE: Donald Trump seems to be recanting this] [FURTHER UPDATE: Transcript added]

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

The New York Times reports:

Donald J. Trump, who earlier in the week said he was open to requiring Muslims in the United States to register in a database, said on Thursday night that he "would certainly implement that—absolutely." [As to this paragraph, note the FURTHER UPDATE below.]

When asked how a system of registering Muslims would be carried out—whether, for instance, mosques would be where people could register—Mr. Trump said: "Different places. You sign up at different places. But it's all about management. Our country has no management."

Requiring Americans to register if they are of a particular religion? That's one sort of "management" I had thought reserved for other countries.

UPDATE: Washington Post (Katie Zezima) reports that "Donald Trump on Friday backed away from the idea that he wants to create a database to track Muslims in America as fellow presidential candidates blasted the proposal as 'abhorrent' and 'shocking.'" Also, some commenters argued that the quotes from Trump were out of context, but I don't think that's right; I'll try to blog the relevant excerpts, and the background (see, e.g., here), tomorrow.

FURTHER UPDATE: Here's the backstory: A few days ago, Yahoo News (Hunter Walker) reported that Trump was talking about unspecified things—"things that we never did before," "certain things … that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy," "certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago"—with regard to Muslims (see this audio, released in response to a query by Byron York). The initial question asked, "I know how you feel about the borders, but do you think there is some kind of state of emergency here, and do we need warrantless searches of Muslims?"

After Trump's "things that we never did before" answer, Walker asked, "And in terms of doing this, to pull off the kind of tracking we need, do you think we might need to register Muslims in some type of database, or note their religion on their ID?" Trump then responded in a way that seems open but noncommittal:

Well, we're going to have to look at a lot of things very closely. We're going to have to look at the mosques. We're going to have to look very, very carefully….

I take it that this is what prompted the MSNBC reporter to ask a follow-up question, trying to pin Trump down on whether he would support the database. Here's my transcript of the resulting video:

[REPORTER:] Should there be a database system that tracks the Muslims here in this country?

TRUMP: There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases. We should have a lot of systems. And today you can do it. But right now we have to have a border, we have to strength, we have to have a wall [Trump then turns the conversation to illegal immigration -EV] …

[REPORTER:] But Muslims specifically, how do you actually get them registered into a database?

TRUMP: It would just be good management, what you have do is good management procedures. And we can do that.

[REPORTER:] But you would [inaudible] go to mosques to sign these people up and in the system?

TRUMP: Different places. You sign them up in different—but it's all about management, our country has no management….

[In a later shot:]

[REPORTER, sounds like a different oneone as originally:] Mr. Trump, why would Muslim databases not be the same thing as requiring Jews to register in Nazi Germany? What would be the difference? Is there a difference between the two?

TRUMP: Who?

[REPORTER:] Is there a difference –

TRUMP: Who are you with?

[REPORTER:] I'm with NBC News. Is there a difference between requiring Muslims to register and Jews –

TRUMP: You tell me.

[REPORTER:]—in Nazi Germany.

TRUMP: You tell me. You tell me.

[REPORTER:] Do you believe –

TRUMP: Why don't you tell me?

[REPORTER:] Do you believe there is?

TRUMP: You tell me.

[REPORTER:] Should Muslims be, I mean, fearful? Would there be consequences if they don't register?

[Trump moves on.]

Trump was trying to shift the conversation to stopping illegal immigration, but it's hard to see Trump's answers to the questions I quote above as focused on illegal immigration. Trump was indeed expressing support, as the New York Times reported, for the database:

[REPORTER:] Should there be a database system that tracks the Muslims here in this country?

TRUMP: There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases. We should have a lot of systems. And today you can do it. But right now we have to have a border, we have to strength, we have to have a wall [Trump then turns the conversation to illegal immigration -EV] …

[REPORTER:] But Muslims specifically, how do you actually get them registered into a database?

TRUMP: It would just be good management, what you have do is good management procedures. And we can do that.

[REPORTER:] But you would [inaudible] go to mosques to sign these people up and in the system?

TRUMP: Different places. You sign them up in different—but it's all about management, our country has no management….

On reviewing the audio, I do think that the "would certainly implement that—absolutely" quoted in the New York Times report was ambiguous—it may be that he was referring to his aside about the illegal immigrants. But as I read the passages I just quoted, Trump is indeed expressing support for a database system that tracks Muslim here.

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