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Trump Closes First Week In Office With Visit To The Pentagon

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

President Donald Trump closed out his first full week in office with a visit today to the Pentagon. Mr. Trump issued new executive actions concerning national security, watched his vice president swear in the secretary of defense and had his first full meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

NPR's Tom Bowman joins us now. And Tom, what did we learn today about Donald Trump's plans for the war against ISIS?

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Well, we didn't learn too much about his plans for the war against ISIS. We do know that he met with the Joint Chiefs at the Pentagon in a secure conference room called the Tank. And we're told that what they talked about was how to accelerate the war against ISIS. But we have no details on that yet.

But what I do know from talking to defense officials is that they may remove some of the restrictions put in place by the Obama administration. And that could mean U.S. troops could be closer to the front lines to help Iraqi forces and Syrian rebel forces fight ISIS. It could be more airstrikes. There was a great concern with the Obama administration about having no civilian casualties. So they could relax those restrictions on the fight against ISIS. That's what we're hearing.

In addition, they could offer more support to Iraq. We're hearing about perhaps more trainers, American trainers, more special operators and, again, more airstrikes to help in the fight against ISIS in Iraq.

SHAPIRO: The president issued a lot of executive actions this week, and today there was one about immigration from mostly Muslim countries, putting the refugee program on hold. Tell us more about what it says.

BOWMAN: Well, we just got it tonight, and what they talk about is more strict regulations on immigration, talks here in the executive order about a list of countries that do not provide adequate information on people coming into the country. It wants the secretary of homeland security as well as the secretary of state and the director of national intelligence to do a review of the countries that don't provide adequate information.

It talks about having a more uniform screening standard that includes in-person interviews, a database of identity documents. And it also talks about coming up with a biometric entry-exit tracking system. Biometrics of course would be the person's fingerprints. It could be a retina scan to see if this person is who he or she says they are. So that's something we're looking at now in this executive order - more stringent regulations here than what we have now.

SHAPIRO: Tom, it's still early in the administration, but after one week, what have we learned about the relationship Trump is going to have with Defense Secretary James Mattis and the rest of the Pentagon?

BOWMAN: Well, we're told that it was a pretty good meeting at the Pentagon with the Joint Chiefs. He seems to have a certain comfort level with Secretary Mattis, who was a four-star general and who led troops in Iraq. What's interesting is that Donald Trump said he believes torture works. Mattis completely disagrees with him. Mattis says, give me a pack of cigarettes and two beers; I can do a better job with - than any kind of torture.

And the president today said he would actually defer to his Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, on the issue of torture. If Mattis doesn't think it works, that's OK with President Trump.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman. Thanks, Tom.

BOWMAN: You're welcome, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.