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Trump says we need to ban Syrian refugees because they have ISIS photos on their phones

Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

Early in Tuesday night's GOP debateWolf Blitzer asked Donald Trump to defend his proposal to ban all non-American Muslims from entering the United States. Trump's answer was, even for Donald Trump, pretty strange:

We are not talking about isolation. We're talking about security. We're not talking about religion. We're talking about security. Our country is out of control. People are pouring across the southern border. I will build a wall. It will be a great wall.

People will not come in unless they come in legally. Drugs will not come through that wall. As far as other people into migration where they're going, tens of thousands of people having cell phones with ISIS flags on them. I don't think so, Wolf. They're not coming to this country. And if I'm president and if Obama has brought some to this country, they are leaving. They're going. They're gone.

ISIS phones! So to be clear, Trump's argument for keeping out Muslims was:

  • "We are not talking about religion" — even though the proposal specifically calls for banning entry by people of a specific religion.
  • We should build a wall — nay, a "great wall" — on the Mexican border.
  • Syrian refugees are a terrorist threat because "thousands" of them have "cellphones with ISIS flags on them." This appears to be a reference to a report floated on the conspiracy site Infowars and the British tabloid the Daily Mail that several refugees in Norway were found with photos of ISIS flags on their phones — which 1) is not "thousands of people," and 2) seems like documentation of ISIS's presence rather than a statement of support per se.

The debate's just started, and it's already a Trump kind of night.