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Barrack Obama Breaks Silence On Trump Presidency To Condemn Migration Ban

 

Paul Owen in New York
President Donald Trump shakes hands with ex-President Barack Obama after he took the oath of office at the Inauguration Ceremony in Washington, D.C. Trump became the 45th President of the United States© REX/Shutterstock President Donald Trump shakes hands with ex-President Barack Obama after he took the oath of office at the Inauguration Ceremony in Washington, D.C. Trump became the 45th President of the United States  

Barack Obama has broken his silence on his successor’s presidency after only 10 days, issuing a short statement that attacks Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban.

“The president [Obama] fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion,” a spokesman for Obama said.

During his final press conference as president earlier this month, Obama listed a number of issues that might prompt him to return to the political fray.

“There’s a difference between [the] normal functioning of politics and certain issues or certain moments where I think our core values may be at stake,” Obama said then. “I put in that category if I saw systematic discrimination being ratified in some fashion. I put in that category explicit or functional obstacles to people being able to vote, to exercise their franchise.

“I put in that category institutional efforts to silence dissent or the press. And for me at least I would put in that category efforts to round up kids who have grown up here and for all practical purposes are American kids and send them somewhere else, when they love this country.”

On Monday, spokesman Kevin Lewis said Obama was “heartened” by the amount of engagement being seen across the country – presumably a reference to the protests that sprang up over the weekend against Trump’s executive order. “In his final official speech as president, he spoke about the important role of citizen and how all Americans have a responsibility to be the guardians of our democracy – not just during an election, but every day,” Lewis said.

“Citizens exercising their constitutional right to assemble, organize and have their voices heard by their elected officials is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake,” he said.
Anger across America at Donald Trump’s travel ban – video report

Obama also rejected an attempt by the Trump administration to draw comparisons with his administration’s move in 2011 to impose more stringent checks on Iraqi refugees after two Iraqis were charged with terrorism offences in Kentucky. Unlike Trump’s order, the Obama policy applied only to Iraqi refugees and never specifically prohibited entry, according to the Associated Press.

Former Obama administration officials have denied it amounted to a ban. “While the flow of Iraqi refugees slowed significantly during the Obama administration’s review, refugees continued to be admitted to the United States during that time, and there was not a single month in which no Iraqis arrived here,” Jon Finer wrote in Foreign Policy. “In other words, while there were delays in processing, there was no outright ban.”

“With regard to comparisons to President Obama’s foreign policy decisions, as we’ve heard before,” Lewis wrote in his statement, “the president fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.”

On Monday the Council on American–Islamic Relations (Cair) issued a lawsuit claiming Trump’s travel ban violates the first amendment of the constitution, which establishes the right to freedom of religion. And Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington, said he was also launching a legal challenge, saying the banning of immigrants based on their country of citizenship went against state statutes meant to stop discrimination based on place of birth or nationality.

The executive order issued by Trump on Friday denies refugees and immigrants from certain Muslim-majority countries entry to the United States.

Trump’s unprecedented action indefinitely closes US borders to refugees fleeing the humanitarian crisis in war-torn Syria and imposes a de facto ban on people traveling to the US from parts of the Middle East and Africa by prioritizing refugee claims “on the basis of religious-based persecution”.

Although Trump administration officials have continued to insist that the president’s actions did not target Muslims or any one faith, the text of the executive order made explicit that the US government would prioritize religious minorities in Muslim-majority countries upon resuming its admittance of refugees.

The president has himself said non-Muslim religious minorities would be prioritized for entry to the US. During an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network on Friday, Trump said his administration would place an emphasis on helping persecuted Christians in the Middle East and Africa.

The action puts in place a 90-day block on entry to the US from citizens from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia. It suspends the admittance of all refugees to the US for a period of 120 days, and terminates indefinitely all refugee admissions from Syria, where the nearly six-year war under Bashar al-Assad’s regime has led to more than 500,000 civilian deaths and created the displacement of an estimated 11 million Syrians.

It also caps the total number of refugees entering the US in 2017 to 50,000 – less than half the previous year’s figure of 117,000.   (The Guardian)

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BREAKING NEWS: Acting Attorney General Orders Justice Department Not To Defend Refugee Ban

 

By MATT APUZZO and ERIC LICHTBLAU
Sally Q. Yates, the acting attorney general, during a news conference in June.© Pete Marovich/Getty Images Sally Q. Yates, the acting attorney general, during a news conference in June.  

WASHINGTON — Acting Attorney General Sally Q. Yates, a holdover from the Obama administration, ordered the Justice Department on Monday not to defend President Trump’s executive order on immigration in court.

“I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right,” Ms. Yates wrote in a letter to Justice Department lawyers. “At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful.”

The decision is largely symbolic — Mr. Trump’s nominee to be attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is likely to be confirmed soon — but it highlights the deep divide at the Justice Department and elsewhere in the government over Mr. Trump’s order.

Mr. Trump has the authority to fire Ms. Yates, but as the top Senate-confirmed official at the Justice Department, she is the only one authorized to sign foreign surveillance warrants, an essential function at the department.

“For as long as I am the acting attorney general, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of the executive order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so,” she wrote.

She was expected to inform the White House of her decision early Monday evening. There was no immediate response from the White House. But Mr. Trump is certain to react strongly to the open defiance to his authority.

Ms. Yates’s letter transforms the confirmation of Mr. Sessions as attorney general into a referendum on the immigration order. Action in the Senate could come as early as Tuesday.

The decision by the acting attorney general is a remarkable rebuke by a government official to a sitting president that recalls the dramatic “Saturday Night Massacre” in 1973, when President Richard M. Nixon fired his attorney general and deputy attorney general for refusing to dismiss the special prosecutor in the Watergate case.

That case prompted a constitutional crisis that ended when Robert Bork, the solicitor general, acceded to Mr. Nixon’s order and fired Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor.

Ms. Yates, a career prosecutor, is different because she is a holdover from President Barack Obama’s administration, where she served as deputy attorney general. She agreed to Mr. Trump’s request to stay on as acting attorney general until Mr. Sessions is confirmed.

Several federal judges blocked part of the Mr. Trump’s executive order over the weekend after lawyers representing some of those detained at the airports quickly filed lawsuits. The judges ordered the government not to send detained people back to their home countries.

Mr. Trump’s executive order drew widespread condemnation from around the globe even as the new policy created chaos and confusion at American airports, where refugees and others who arrived on Saturday were detained for hours.

The new president characterized his order as a way to protect Americans from terrorists, and he insisted in a series of Twitter messages that his order, which named seven predominantly Muslim countries, was not an attempt to single out a religion for discrimination.

But protesters rallied at several airports around the world and Mr. Trump received a chorus of bipartisan criticism from lawmakers, academics, corporate executives and human rights advocates as travelers with valid visas or green cards were refused entry back into the United States.

Aides to the president backtracked on Sunday, saying that lawful, permanent residents of the United States would not be barred by the order. But the White House said the president had no intention of backing down from the order, which continues to shut the borders to refugees and others.

Court motions and hearings are scheduled over the next few days in courtrooms around the country over legal challenges to the immigration order. Questions lingered throughout the day Monday about how and whether Justice Department lawyers in the field would defend the White House order.

Still, Ms. Yates’s message of legal doubt, coming from the acting head of the Justice Department, sent a powerful signal about the cloud over the order.

(The  New York Times)

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Trump Suspends Syrian Refugees Program |The Republican News

 

By KEN THOMAS

WASHINGTON (AP) — Setting a hard-line tone on national security, President Donald Trump on Friday ordered strict new screening for refugees to keep “radical Islamic terrorists” out of the United States and alternated tough talk with kind words in his diplomatic standoff with Mexico.

Trump traveled to the Pentagon, where he joined Defense Secretary Jim Mattis for the signing of an executive action to bring sweeping changes to the nation’s refugee policies and put in motion his plans to build up the nation’s military.

“We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas,” he said. “We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people.”

During his election campaign against Hillary Clinton, Trump pledged to put in place “extreme vetting” procedures to screen people coming to the U.S. from countries with terrorism ties. The order imposes a 90-day ban on all entry to the United States from countries with terrorism concerns.

However, it’s unclear from the law cited in the directive specifically which countries are affected. A draft of the order had designated seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The White House did not immediately provide clarity on the affected countries.

The order also halts entry to the U.S. by Syrian refugees until the president determines that changes to the refugee assistance program ensure that admitting them won’t compromise national security.

President Donald Trump points to guests upon his arrival at Andrews Air Force One, Md., Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017. Trump is returning from Philadelphia after speaking at the House and Senate GOP lawmakers at their annual policy retreat. ( AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)© The Associated Press President Donald Trump points to guests upon his arrival at Andrews Air Force One, Md., Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017. Trump is returning from Philadelphia after speaking at the House and Senate GOP lawmakers at their annual…  

Trump also signed a presidential memorandum on “rebuilding” the U.S. Armed Forces, giving Mattis 30 days to conduct a “readiness” review and report back on steps that can be taken this year to improve conditions.

Joined earlier in the day at the White House by British Prime Minister Theresa May, Trump reaffirmed the United States’ “special relationship” with Great Britain.

But he was also asked about more contentious issues, including his recent statements that torture “does work” in prying information out of terror suspects. Giving ground, he said his defense secretary’s opposition would override his own belief. Hours later he stood at the Pentagon as Mattis, the retired general, was sworn in as the military’s chief.

Trump was also pressed on whether he would revert back to Bush-era use of torture, in the news since The Associated Press and other news organizations obtained copies of a draft executive order signaling sweeping changes to U.S. interrogation and detention policy.

Trump said he would defer to the views of Mattis, who has questioned the effectiveness of such practices as waterboarding, which simulates drowning.

“He has stated publicly that he does not necessarily believe in torture or waterboarding, or however you want to define it. … I don’t necessarily agree. But I would tell you that he will override because I’m giving him that power. He’s an expert,” Trump said.

The draft order, which the White House said was not official, also would reverse Obama’s effort to close the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — a place Trump has said he wants to fill up “with bad dudes.”

The draft also requests recommendations on whether the U.S. should reopen CIA detention facilities outside the United States. Critics said the clandestine sites have marred America’s image on the world stage.

Trump held firm Friday on another controversy — trade and illegal immigration from Mexico. He told reporters at a joint news conference with May that he had a “very good call” with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto earlier in the day, but he reaffirmed his belief that Mexico has “outnegotiated and beat us to a pulp” on trade — and that would change.

“We’re no longer going to be the country that doesn’t know what it’s doing,” he declared a day after the Mexican leader canceled his visit to Washington in response to Trump’s plans to build a border wall and have Mexico pay for it.

While the refugee actions are aimed at thwarting terrorists, the border wall is more for keeping out immigrants trying to enter the U.S. for economic reasons — though Trump has continually also raised concerns about criminals flowing north.

The flurry of national security moves and foreign policy outreach capped a hectic first week for Trump at the White House, giving Americans an initial look at how he intends to position the United States around the globe.

Trump, who met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon, has the authority to determine how many refugees are accepted annually, and he can suspend the program at any time. Refugee processing was suspended in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and restarted months later.

During the past budget year, the U.S. accepted 84,995 refugees, including 12,587 people from Syria. President Barack Obama had set the refugee limit for this budget year at 110,000.

Trump, according to the executive action, plans to cut that to 50,000. The order says that while the program is suspended, the U.S. may admit people on a case-by-case basis when “in the national interest” and the government will continue to process refugee requests from people claiming religious persecution, “provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country.” That suggests it would allow the admission of Christians from Muslim-majority countries.

In an interview with CBN News, Trump said persecuted Christians would be given priority in applying for refugee status. “We are going to help them,” Trump said. “They’ve been horribly treated.”

Applauded by some in his own party, Trump’s refugee action was strongly criticized by some Democrats.

“Tears are running down the cheeks of the Statue of Liberty tonight as a grand tradition of America, welcoming immigrants, that has existed since America was founded has been stomped upon,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.

Trump’s order was signed on Holocaust Remembrance Day, which brought to mind the global effort to help refugees during World War II and its aftermath.

On another international issue, Trump is expected on Saturday to speak by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin. During the news conference with May, he was asked if he was considering lifting U.S. sanctions against Russia. But Trump was noncommittal, saying, “We’ll see what happens. As far as the sanctions, very early to be talking about that.”

Obama’s administration and the European Union slapped Moscow with sanctions for its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and support for a pro-Russia insurgency in eastern Ukraine. Relations have plunged to post-Cold War lows over Ukraine, Putin’s backing of Syrian President Bashar Assad and allegations of Russian meddling in the U.S. elections.

May, for her part, said the United Kingdom supports continuing the sanctions for now.

___AP

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