Acting Attorney General Orders Justice Dept. Not to Defend Refugee Ban

Sally Q. Yates, the acting attorney general, during a news conference in June. CreditPete Marovich/Getty Images

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.

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A Clarifying Moment in American History

I felt the following article by Eliot Cohen needed to be retransmitted as widely as possible. Kudos to The Atlantic for publishing it.

Link to original article

A Clarifying Moment in American History

There should be nothing surprising about what Donald Trump has done in his first week—but he has underestimated the resilience of Americans and their institutions.

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
I am not surprised by President Donald Trump’s antics this week. Not by the big splashy pronouncements such as announcing a wall that he would force Mexico to pay for, even as the Mexican foreign minister held talks with American officials in Washington. Not by the quiet, but no less dangerous bureaucratic orders, such as kicking the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff out of meetings of the Principals’ Committee, the senior foreign-policy decision-making group below the president, while inserting his chief ideologist, Steve Bannon, into them. Many conservative foreign-policy and national-security experts saw the dangers last spring and summer, which is why we signed letters denouncing not Trump’s policies but his temperament; not his program but his character.We were right. And friends who urged us to tone it down, to make our peace with him, to stop saying as loudly as we could “this is abnormal,” to accommodate him, to show loyalty to the Republican Party, to think that he and his advisers could be tamed, were wrong. In an epic week beginning with a dark and divisive inaugural speech, extraordinary attacks on a free press, a visit to the CIA that dishonored a monument to anonymous heroes who paid the ultimate price, and now an attempt to ban selected groups of Muslims (including interpreters who served with our forces in Iraq and those with green cards, though not those from countries with Trump hotels, or from really indispensable states like Saudi Arabia), he has lived down to expectations.
Precisely because the problem is one of temperament and character, it will not get better. It will get worse, as power intoxicates Trump and those around him. It will probably end in calamity—substantial domestic protest and violence, a breakdown of international economic relationships, the collapse of major alliances, or perhaps one or more new wars (even with China) on top of the ones we already have. It will not be surprising in the slightest if his term ends not in four or in eight years, but sooner, with impeachment or removal under the 25th Amendment. The sooner Americans get used to these likelihoods, the better.
 

The question is, what should Americans do about it? To friends still thinking of serving as political appointees in this administration, beware: When you sell your soul to the Devil, he prefers to collect his purchase on the installment plan. Trump’s disregard for either Secretary of Defense Mattis or Secretary-designate Tillerson in his disastrous policy salvos this week, in favor of his White House advisers, tells you all you need to know about who is really in charge. To be associated with these people is going to be, for all but the strongest characters, an exercise in moral self-destruction.

For the community of conservative thinkers and experts, and more importantly, conservative politicians, this is a testing time. Either you stand up for your principles and for what you know is decent behavior, or you go down, if not now, then years from now, as a coward or opportunist. Your reputation will never recover, nor should it.

Rifts are opening up among friends that will not be healed. The conservative movement of Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp, of William F. Buckley and Irving Kristol, was always heterogeneous, but it more or less hung together. No more. New currents of thought, new alliances, new political configurations will emerge. The biggest split will be between those who draw a line and the power-sick—whose longing to have access to power, or influence it, or indeed to wield it themselves—causes them to fatally compromise their values. For many more it will be a split between those obsessed with anxiety, hatred, and resentment, and those who can hear Lincoln’s call to the better angels of our nature, whose America is not replete with carnage, but a city on a hill.This is one of those clarifying moments in American history, and like most such, it came upon us unawares, although historians in later years will be able to trace the deep and the contingent causes that brought us to this day. There is nothing to fear in this fact; rather, patriots should embrace it. The story of the United States is, as Lincoln put it, a perpetual story of “a rebirth of freedom” and not just its inheritance from the founding generation.Some Americans can fight abuses of power and disastrous policies directly—in courts, in congressional offices, in the press. But all can dedicate themselves to restoring the qualities upon which this republic, like all republics depends: on reverence for the truth; on a sober patriotism grounded in duty, moderation, respect for law, commitment to tradition, knowledge of our history, and open-mindedness. These are all the opposites of the qualities exhibited by this president and his advisers. Trump, in one spectacular week, has already shown himself one of the worst of our presidents, who has no regard for the truth (indeed a contempt for it), whose patriotism is a belligerent nationalism, whose prior public service lay in avoiding both the draft and taxes, who does not know the Constitution, does not read and therefore does not understand our history, and who, at his moment of greatest success, obsesses about approval ratings, how many people listened to him on the Mall, and enemies.

He will do much more damage before he departs the scene, to become a subject of horrified wonder in our grandchildren’s history books. To repair the damage he will have done Americans must give particular care to how they educate their children, not only in love of country but in fair-mindedness; not only in democratic processes but democratic values. Americans, in their own communities, can find common ground with those whom they have been accustomed to think of as political opponents. They can attempt to renew a political culture damaged by their decayed systems of civic education, and by the cynicism of their popular culture.There is in this week’s events the foretaste of things to come. We have yet to see what happens when Trump tries to use the Internal Revenue Service or the Federal Bureau of Investigation to destroy his opponents. He thinks he has succeeded in bullying companies, and he has no compunction about bullying individuals, including those with infinitely less power than himself. His advisers are already calling for journalists critical of the administration to be fired: Expect more efforts at personal retribution. He has demonstrated that he intends to govern by executive orders that will replace the laws passed by the people’s representatives.In the end, however, he will fail. He will fail because however shrewd his tactics are, his strategy is terrible—The New York Times, the CIA, Mexican Americans, and all the others he has attacked are not going away. With every act he makes new enemies for himself and strengthens their commitment; he has his followers, but he gains no new friends. He will fail because he cannot corrupt the courts, and because even the most timid senator sooner or later will say “enough.” He will fail most of all because at the end of the day most Americans, including most of those who voted for him, are decent people who have no desire to live in an American version of Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey, or Viktor Orban’s Hungary, or Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

There was nothing unanticipated in this first disturbing week of the Trump administration. It will not get better. Americans should therefore steel themselves, and hold their representatives to account. Those in a position to take a stand should do so, and those who are not should lay the groundwork for a better day. There is nothing great about the America that Trump thinks he is going to make; but in the end, it is the greatness of America that will stop him.

A Federal Judge Just Issued a Stay Against Donald Trump’s “Muslim Ban”

A Federal Judge Just Issued a Stay Against Donald Trump’s “Muslim Ban”

Judge Ann M. Donnelly’s ruling halted deportations, but refugees abroad remain in limbo.

A federal judge in Brooklyn issued an emergency stay Saturday night against President Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigration from certain predominantly Muslim countries, temporarily allowing people who have landed in the United States with a valid visa to remain.

The ruling—a stunning defeat for Trump at the end of his first week in office—protects from deportation refugees or visa holders who were detained at American airports since the signing of so-called “Muslim ban.” It also protects those in transit when the emergency ruling was filed.

Stay covers all those who were in transit and are being detained at airports. Important first win–thank you @ACLU attorneys!

The lawsuit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of two men detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. The men were subsequently released. Cody Wofsy, a lawyer with the ACLU, told Mother Joneshe’d worked though the night with a large group of attorneys on Friday to write the brief that challenged the executive order.

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The director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project announced the victory on Twitter:

Nationwide injunction – no one can be removed – govt must provide list of names of ppl affected

The stay, granted by Judge Ann M. Donnelly of the US District Court, is temporary, and a court will have to decide whether to make it permanent at a later date. But for now, people will not be deported because of Trump’s executive order.

ACLU currently estimates 100-200 people across US airports being held because of EO. They can all stay until further notice

One Syrian women was reportedly about to be sent back to her home country when the ruling came down—and was promptly taken off the flight by Customs and Border Protection agents.

Woman w/ green card, held at US airport then put on plane “back to Syria” per ACLU. Stay means CBP now taking her off just before take off

Wofsy, the ACLU lawyer, said he planned to stay at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday night to make sure those who are detained there are not removed in violation of the judge’s order.

“This executive order runs contrary to really our most fundamental constitutional rights and human values in this country,” Wofsy said. “These individuals, many of whom have green cards and have lived here for many years, can’t just be put on a plane and shipped off.”

You can read the judge’s full order here:

 

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And the ACLU’s original complaint below:

 

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This is a developing story. We’ll update as more news comes in.

STATEMENT BY SENATOR JOHN McCAIN ON PRESIDENT TRUMP’S PHONE CALL WITH VLADIMIR PUTIN

Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the following statement today on President Donald Trump’s phone call with Vladimir Putin tomorrow:

“President Donald Trump’s call with Vladimir Putin is scheduled to take place amid widespread speculation that the White House is considering lifting sanctions against Russia. For the sake of America’s national security and that of our allies, I hope President Trump will put an end to this speculation and reject such a reckless course. If he does not, I will work with my colleagues to codify sanctions against Russia into law.

“In just the last three years under Vladimir Putin, Russia has invaded Ukraine, annexed Crimea, threatened NATO allies, and intervened militarily in Syria, leaving a trail of death, destruction, and broken promises in his wake.

“Russia’s war on Ukraine has killed over 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers and civilians. Russia supplied the weapons that shot down a commercial aircraft over Ukraine and killed 298 innocent people.

“Russia has conducted a massive military buildup along NATO’s eastern flank, conducted large-scale military exercises, violated the borders, airspace, and territorial waters of its neighbors, and intensified its propaganda efforts to undermine the governments of our allies.

“Russia has propped up the murderous Assad regime as it has waged war on the Syrian people and killed more than 400,000 civilians. Russia’s military has targeted Syrian hospitals and first responders with precision weapons. Instead of targeting ISIL, Russia has focused its operations against the moderate Syrian opposition, which has only empowered extremist forces in the country.

“And in the most flagrant demonstration of Putin’s disdain and disrespect for our nation, Russia deliberately interfered in our recent election with cyberattacks and a disinformation campaign designed to weaken America and discredit Western values.

“Each of our last three presidents had high hopes for building a partnership with the Russian government. Each attempt failed, not for lack of good faith and effort on the U.S. side, but because Putin wants to be our enemy. He needs us as his enemy. He will never be our partner, including in fighting ISIL. He believes that strengthening Russia means weakening America. President Trump should remember this when he speaks to Vladimir Putin. He should remember that the man on the other end of the line is a murderer and a thug who seeks to undermine American national security interests at every turn. For our commander-in-chief to think otherwise would be naïve and dangerous.”

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Teddy Roosevelt’s Advice on Dealing with a President You Mistrust

In 1918, former President Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, was in disagreement with President Wilson, a Democrat, over what Roosevelt felt was a lack of leadership by Wilson in America’s involvement in World War I. Some critics complained that Roosevelt was wrong in criticizing the sitting President during a war. Roosevelt’s response is below. It is good advice to follow when you do not agree with the President and do not believe the President is telling the American people the truth.

“The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.”