(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump criticized the latest version of his own travel ban as "watered down" in a Twitter tirade Monday that also second-guessed his Justice Department’s tactics in taking the case to the Supreme Court.
"The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C.," Trump wrote in a series of Twitter messages that started at 6:25 a.m.
In fact, it was Trump who revoked the original ban when he signed the second version on March 6 after his first executive order was blocked by courts. The latest version, restricting entry into the U.S. by people from six predominantly Muslim countries, also has been put on hold amid arguments it unconstitutionally targets Muslims.
The Justice Department asked the Supreme Court on June 1 to hear the government’s appeal on a faster-than-usual schedule, but not quickly enough for the president.
"The Justice Dept. should ask for an expedited hearing of the watered down Travel Ban before the Supreme Court - & seek much tougher version!" Trump tweeted on Monday.
By calling the second version a "watered down, politically correct" version of his first order, Trump will give new ammunition to critics who say he has never veered from what they contend is his original goal of targeting Muslims with the policy.
The government has asked the court to decide by the end of June whether to hear the case and suggested requiring written briefs to be submitted before the justices start their next term in October. The solicitor general’s office could have sought a quicker schedule, and Trump could have ordered it to do so.
But the government can’t ask the court to impose a "much tougher version" than the ban Trump ordered -- the justices will be looking at the order that was signed by the president. If the president wanted to go back to the original travel ban, which was so broad it ensnared green card holders and others who had long been in the country legally, he could do so at any time by issuing a new executive order.
Trump’s initial travel order -- issued a week after he took office -- threw airports around the world into chaos and prompted an outcry from the technology industry and U.S. universities before it was blocked in court. After signing the revised version, he later said it was needed to protect against "radical Islamic terrorists."
The Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on May 25 upheld a nationwide halt to the policy, saying the travel ban was driven by unconstitutional religious motivations. The majority pointed to Trump’s campaign vow to bar Muslims from entering the country and to the special preference for religious minorities in the earlier version of the ban.
Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior declined to comment.
Trump drew criticism from an unexpected source -- attorney George Conway, the husband of Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway. He wrote on Twitter that the president’s tweets "may make some ppl feel better," but they won’t help the government "get 5 votes in SCOTUS, which is what actually matters. Sad."
What to call the travel policy has been at issue, too. White House press secretary Sean Spicer insisted that it was "not a Muslim ban, it’s not a travel ban" in a Jan. 31 briefing when he was asked about the planned order. "It’s a vetting system to keep America safe," Spicer said.
"People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!" Trump wrote Monday.
"In any event we are EXTREME VETTING people coming into the U.S. in order to help keep our country safe. The courts are slow and political!" Trump added.