The Trump administration is planning to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist organization, an effort that is “working its way through the internal process,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Tuesday.
Sanders was responding to a New York Times report, citing officials familiar with the matter, that said the administration was working to make the designation, a move that would impose “wide-ranging economic and travel sanctions” on entities that do business with the group.
The Times said that following a White House visit earlier this month by Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the administration “directed national security and diplomatic officials to find a way to place sanctions on the group.”
According to the paper, Sisi “urged” President Donald Trump to make the move during a private meeting during his visit, and the President “responded affirmatively,” agreeing “it would make sense.”
The Times also said the decision has caused infighting at the White House, including during a meeting held last week by the National Security Council that included top officials from different departments. National security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are supportive of the decision, the paper said, but the Defense Department, longtime national security staff and others have “voiced legal and policy objections.”
The paper said people opposed to the idea “have been scrambling to find a more limited step that would satisfy the White House.”
The Brotherhood, a political and social organization that calls for a society based on Islamic law, renounced violence decades ago and affiliated groups in Turkey, Tunisia and Morocco have joined the political process. Most notably, the Brotherhood won Egyptian elections in 2012 after the fall of Hosni Mubarak and ruled the country until President Mohammed Morsi was overthrown in a popular revolt supported by the military.
The Times noted that Sisi “helped lead a coup in 2013 that deposed” Morsi, and that Egypt designated the group a terrorist organization a few years back. The paper also noted that the potential designation could be damaging to the US’ relationship with Turkey, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a strong supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood.
According to the Times, less than a month into Trump’s presidency in 2017, the administration considered designating the group a terrorist organization, as well as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. The President formally designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a Foreign Terrorist Organization earlier this month.
CNN’s Elise Labott contributed to this report.