The Bannon/Trump Show Opens at CPAC!

 

On Thursday February 23, Stephen Bannon strode onto the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference in lockstep with Reince Preibus.  Trump’s Chief Strategist and his Chief of Staff were both smiling broadly. Their appearance was a contrast: Priebus a trim figure in a traditional dark suit, white shirt, striped tie; Bannon, a big rumpled bear of a man in dark shirt and jacket above tan chinos.  The former Breitbart News executive, who has been instrumental in every speech, action and event of the Trump presidency,  finally left the shadows and appeared in public, center stage. Bannon’s presence electrified the session and prepared the way for President Trump to take over on Friday, February 24.  The entire Bannon/Trump show was a blockbuster debut.

Stephen K. Bannon has a diverse background;  Naval officer, Harvard MBA and Goldman Sachs executive before he developed  the alt-right Breitbart News network. Trump credits him with the winning strategy and surprise victory on November 8, Election Day.  Bannon’s beliefs and words were heard during Trump’s dark inaugural address on January 20 when he declared, “ American carnage is over!”  Now, at CPAC, Bannon spoke with assurance and captured the audience with his striking new ideas and powerful presentation.  Although Trump’s first month has been characterized as “chaotic” with certain serious mishaps as the resignation of Michael Flynn, national security adviser,  Bannon insisted that everything was going very smoothly.  He stressed that “the deconstruction of the administrative state” had just started.

The political terms he used were probably new to most of his listeners. “Whether you’re a populist, whether you’re a limited government conservative, whether you’re a libertarian, whether you’re a economic nationalist, we want you to have our back.”   Complex concepts, but his message was clear, one of radical change on the way.  President Trump and Stephen Bannon would lead in new directions and they needed CPAC  Republicans to follow.  There was enthusiastic applause from the audience during his brief remarks.  He ended on a unifying note, insisting that conservatives all had more in common than differences.    “We have wide and sometimes divergent opnions,” he said.  But the core of what conservatives believe is “that we’re a nation with an economy, not an economy just in some global marketplace with open borders. That we’re a nation with a culture and a reason for being.”  He added, “And I think that’s what unites us. And I think that’s what’s going to unite this movement going forward.”

Bannon began his deconstruction of the federal administration when he advised Trump on the selection of his cabinet appointments.  The Washington Post reported on February 23 that Bannon explained in an interview that most of Trump’s choices were known to be opposed to the  federal agencies they would be leading.  He said, in plain language that “they weren’t appointed to lead the agencies, but to destroy them.” This included:  Education, Environmental Protection, Labor, and Housing and Urban Development.  Betsy de Vos ,who favored charter schools over the nation’s public schools systems,  knew nothing about federal laws against public money for religious schools.  She was confirmed by Vice President Pence casting his vote to break the 50 for vs. 50 against in the senate. Ben Carson, the neuro-surgeon,  said he knew nothing about H.U.D. the vast agency he would lead besides growing up poor and having to be self reliant. The labor nominee ,  Andrew Puzder , who preferred robots to people as workers, withdrew after Republican senators who would vote against him rose to six with all Democrats opposed.   Scott Pruitt , the EPA nominee had been the Attorney General of Oklahoma where he filed fourteen lawsuits against major EPA  rules on behalf of  oil and gas producers and electric utilities. He was confirmed days before 6,000 pages of emails were released by the courts that proved he worked closely with those companies against EPA rules during the years he was Attorney General of the state.

On Friday, February 24,  President Donald Trump arrived at CPAC  to deliver the  most blistering speech of his first month in office.  His infamous press conference  on February 16 had been described as “King Lear meets Rodney Dangerfield” by Lloyd Grove.  Now, he was in his most bellicose mood, attacking the press as “the enemy of the people.”   “They are very smart. They are very cunning and they’re very dishonest.”   The packed ballroom of supporters reacted with approving chants of “ Trump” and “U.S.A.”   “The fake news doesn’t tell the truth”, he continued. “It doesn’t represent the people.  And never will represent the people. And we’re going to do something about it.”

Later in the day at the White House,  Sean Spicer, the press secretary,  barred certain news organizations from the session.  This unprecedented  action included: CNN, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, BuzzFeed News, Politico, BBC and The Huffington Post.  Reporters from the Associated Press and Time Magazine were invited but chose not to attend. The Washington Post did not send reporters.  The executive editor of the New York Times, Dean Baquet, issued a statement: “Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties. We strongly protest the exclusion of The New York Times and other news organizations. Free media access to a transparent government is obviously of crucial national interest.”

The significant  background to Trump’s speech at CPAC and the subsequent barring of some press organizations was Trump’s scathing attack on the F.B.I. He had accused the intelligence agency in Twitter posts of  “leaking classified information” to the media about members of his administration contacting  Russian counterparts during the campaign and after his inauguration.  This simmering scandal would spread to the two Republican chairmen of the Senate Intelligence and  House Intelligence Committees. They said they had been asked by the White House to tell the media that the F.B.I.  found nothing of consequence in their ongoing investigation. This revelation caused immediate reactions from Republican legislator Darrel Issa and others calling for “a special prosecutor”  since Attorney General Sessions, a close ally of Trump,  needed to recuse himself.  The scandal was erupting despite Trump’s attempt to deflect attention with his vicious attacks on the press at CPAC.

Epilogue: On Saturday evening, the White House announced that President Trump would not attend the White House Correspondents Dinner in April.  Only Ronald Reagan missed a session in recent history when he was recovering in the hospital after an assassination attempt. The dinner is a one hundred year old tradition honoring members of the press and offering scholarships. Barack Obama attended eight times, once the night before the successful attack that killed Osama Ben Laden.   Apparently, Donald J. Trump was wary of the “roast” of the president that always occurs.  Perhaps, Alec Baldwin will substitute for him as he does so successfully on Saturday Night Live.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Joyce S. Anderson

 

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President Trump’s Alternative Reality!

The Press Conference.   Thursday, February 16, Donald Trump met the press in the East Room of the White House.  Arranged hastily, the conference was jammed with eager reporters from print, TV and radio.  Millions of Americans watched and listened to 77 minutes of non-stop questions and answers.  The president had decided that he would be the best spokesman to defend his first month in office.  Before he referred to prepared remarks, he said, “I turn on the TV, open the newspapers and I see stories of chaos.  Chaos. Yet, it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine- tuned machine.”

From that opening, he launched a rambling,  angry and emotional attack upon the “dishonest media” ,  “criminal leakers”,  Democrats,  Hillary Clinton and “bad judges”.  If you were watching, it was a revealing and mesmerizing experience , hearing how his mind works and what matters most to him.  At times, he seemed bewildered by “hatred” , needy: “I’m really not a bad person,  by the way.”  And playful,  “ I love this.”

Main subjects covered:  Michael Flynn’s resignation.  The hottest topic was probably the most important.  Revelations had become public in The Washington Post about the continued contact of members of Trump’s campaign with Russian  officials during the campaign. It was widely reported and known that the Russians had hacked the presidential election for months in favor of Donald Trump.  On October 29,  Flynn made five telephone calls to the Russian ambassador to the U.S.  That was the exact day President Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats and issued economic sanctions against Russia.  Flynn insisted they did not talk about sanctions to Vice President Pence, who repeated that on Sunday talk shows. When Trump learned of Flynn’s involvement, he felt there had been “an erosion of trust” and asked for Flynn’s resignation.  That occurred the next day.

During the press conference, different reporters posed direct questions to Trump about the entire event.  His main response was that “Michael Flynn is a wonderful man. “   He has not been “fairly treated by the press.”  He said he was not bothered if Flynn had talked to the Russian ambassador about the sanctions before arriving at the White House. “I didn’t direct him. But I would have, because that’s his job.”  Trump’s answers to the different reporters on the subject focused on the “criminal leaks” from the Washington Post and the New York Times. He also stressed that reports that his aides had contacts with the Russians during the campaign were “a joke” and “fake news” put out by the media.  “The press is out of control.  The level of dishonesty is out of control. Later, he added, “ The public doesn’t believe you people anymore.”

Public approval rating.   Trump bragged,  “ A new Rasmussen poll came out just a short while ago , and it has our approval rating at 55 percent and going up.” Fact checkers consider Rasmussen an ‘outlier’. Current Pew polls have Trump’s approval rating at 39 percent in a downward trend.  Gallup, another major poll, had approval at 38 percent on Friday, Feb. 18, well below the 46 percent who voted for him in November.

Muslim Travel Ban.  Trump  said,  “We had a very smooth rollout of the travel ban.  We had a bad court.” Considering that everyone had followed the chaos in the airports here and around the world, that was a strange answer. He must have watched on television since it is known that he watches TV constantly.  When asked about the unanimous rejection by the three judge Appeals Court, he denigrated the Ninth Circuit reputation.  “That circuit is in chaos. And that circuit is frankly in turmoil”.  Facts: Ninth circuit is known as the most liberal circuit. 18 of 25 judges were appointed by Democratic presidents. When he had tweeted “See you in Court!” at the time, most people assumed he would appeal to the Supreme Court.  However, he told the reporters that his administration was preparing a new executive order over the weekend. And it appeared they would submit it first to the district court and then to the full ninth circuit once more.

Hillary Clinton.  Trump said, “We had Hillary Clinton give Russia 20 percent of the uranium in our country. You know what uranium is, right ?”   Facts: Secretary of State Clinton had nothing to do with the purchase by Russia’s nuclear power agency of controlling interest in a Toronto based company that has assets in the  U.S. , including mills, mines and land used in producing uranium.

State of the economy and government.  Trump  opened with, “Our administration inherited many problems across government and across the economy. To be honest, I inherited a mess.” Facts:   Neither the government nor the economy were in a mess when Trump became president.  The unemployment rate is 4.8 percent, down from 7.7 percent when Obama became president.  Last month, the economy added 227,000 new jobs continuing the steady monthly gains  during Obama years recovery from the recession.  The stock market is above  20,000.  And the government he inherited was run as a “tight ship” with no incidence of scandal during both terms.

Anti-Semitism.  A reporter from a Jewish publication asked the president for his reaction to the rise of anti-Semitic incidents around the country.  Trump became angry, told him to sit down and declared, “ I am the least anti-Semitic person  you have ever seen in your entire life. ” When the reporter tried to explain it was not a personal question, Trump said “Quiet.  Quiet. Quiet.”  He said the question was “repulsive” and very “insulting.  He went on to talk about Netanyahu’s visit and pointed to his Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner in the front row.  Trump’s reaction and  answer were a puzzling non sequitor to the question asked.

Criminal leaks.  Trump said during the press conference, “I’ve actually asked the Justice Department to look into the leaks.”  Fact:   It is unusual for a president to direct the agency to open a criminal investigation or to talk publicly about it.  Presidents have tried to avoid the appearance of politicizing law enforcement. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………

Congressional Investigations of Russian/Trump Communications.

Republican and Democratic leaders have called for investigations into Michael Flynn’s telephone conversations with the  Russian ambassador on October 29. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Dianne Feinstein, the top ranking Democrat, asked for a briefing and transcripts of Flynn’s telephone calls.   James Comey, F.B.I. director met with members of the Judiciary Committee in a secret session.  He had already had an interview with Flynn who  denied  he spoke about the Obama sanctions on Russia to the ambassador.   If the transcripts reveal that Flynn lied to the F.B.I. , that is a felony.   Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Justice Department head, who took an active part in Trump’s entire campaign, has been urged to recuse  himself from any investigation.  At present, he has declined to do so.

Republican senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Pat Roberts favor a broader investigation.  McCain has described Russian president Vladimir Putin as “a murderer and a thug”.  He sees the current administration in “disarray” and  is very concerned about Trump closeness and praise of Putin.  Senator Chuck Schumer, Minority leaders has called for the Senate Intelligence Committee to lead a bipartisan investigation.  On February l7, the New York Times lead editorial was explicit: Bring OnThe Special Prosecutor!  “There is, in fact, only  one person who could conduct such a high profile, politically sensitive investigation fairly and completely — a special prosecutor. “ Later, they wrote, “ The concern is particularly great in the case of the Trump administration which seems uninterested in telling the truth in matters large and small.”

Replacing Michael Flynn.  The first choice, Vice Admiral Robert Harward declined the offer. Stationed in Abu Dhabi, he appeared reluctant to step into the tumult in the White House.  A second possible choice, former General David Petraeus  asked to have his name withdrawn for personal reasons.  On Monday, February 20, Trump announced the appointment of Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster as the new national security adviser.  McMaster, a battle tested veteran of the gulf war and the second Iraq war is known as a strategist and independent thinker.  He has worked closely with General Mattis and is expected to bring vast experience and leadership to the National Security Council.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………Joyce  S. Anderson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

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Scorecard: Policy Reversals, Puzzlers, Polls

 

Policy Reversals Abroad:  China:  Donald Trump held his unprecedented telephone call with the president of Taiwan in early November, followed by his assertion that the United States might not continue to abide by the “One China” policy, in place for decades.  President XI has not spoken to Trump since November 14, after the election.   During his confirmation hearing, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pledged in writing that he would uphold the “On China” policy.  He also rejected the idea that Taiwan should be considered a bargaining chip on trade and other issues with China.  However, Trump spoke on Fox News in December, saying, “We’re being hurt very badly by China with devaluation; with taxing us heavily at the borders when we don’t tax them; with building a massive fortress in the middle of the  South China Seas;  and with not helping us at all with  North Korea.”

Reversal: The White House announced in early February that President Trump had sent President Xi a letter wishing him a happy New Year.   He wished “the Chinese people a happy Lantern Festival and prosperous Year of The Rooster.”  The letter also said,  “he looks forward to working with President Xi to develop a constructive relationship that benefits both the United States and China.”  The next day, Secretary Tillerson was at the White House to discuss whether Trump should publically reaffirm his commitment to One China to break the ice and encourage phone calls between the two leaders.   Administration officials were very aware that status-conscious Chinese would be watching the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Abe to Mar-a-Lago, traveling with Trump on Air Force One for three days of dinners and golf.

Iran.  Israel. Russia.  During the campaign, Trump had declared he would cancel The Iran Nuclear Deal which Secretaries Clinton and Kerry had accomplished with five other major nations to completely stop Iran from building their nuclear arsenal.  Trump also strongly supported Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s policy of building new Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  He praised Russian President Putin many times as a “great popular leader” and expressed skepticism of NATO. He ignored Russia taking over Crimea and pushing into East Ukraine.  All of these positions were the direct opposite of Barack Obama’s foreign policy positions, developed carefully during his eight years in office, and those Secretary Clinton had worked on and supported during her campaign.

Reversals:  Israel.  In the first days of February, the White House issued an unexpected statement appealing to the Israeli government not to expand settlements in the West Bank or East Jerusalem.  Sean Spicer, Press Secretary explained, “While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders, may not be helpful in achieving that goal.” The White House noted that the president “has not taken an official position on settlements.” It did say the he would discuss the issue when they met on February 15 in Washington.  Trump had met with the King of Jordan some days earlier at the National Prayer Breakfast.  Jordan, with a large Palestinian population has been adamantly opposed to the settlements.

IRAN. The new White House has given no sign of reversing the Iran Nuclear Deal.  After Iran launched a ballistic missile, Trump seemed eager to challenge any Iranian expansion into Iraq or Yemen.   He posted an early morning tweet: “Iran has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile.” Later, he added, “Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the U.S. made with them.” Michael Flynn, the National Security Adviser, had sent the warning that Iran was “on notice” for the missile test and arming Houthi rebels in Yemen.  The administration is preparing a set of economic sanctions, while an adviser to Iran’s supreme leader replied, “This is not the first time that an inexperienced person has threatened Iran. The American government will learn that threatening Iran is useless.”

Russia.  At the United Nations, a surprising statement came from the U.S. Ambassador, Nikki Haley. She declared that the United States would not lift sanctions against Russia until it stopped destabilizing Ukraine and pulled out of Crimea.  It was clear that she had the support of the president and Secretary of State on her strong policy statement. In her first remarks at an open session of the Security Council, she said, “We do want to better our relations with Russia. However, the dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear condemnation of Russia’s intentions.”  Many observers said Haley sounded exactly like her predecessor, Samantha Power.

Additional Policy Reversals:

 Visa Ban amended to allow Iraqi interpreters and their families to enter the United States. Thousands of interpreters rode with American forces on combat missions.  For years, they and their families have been seen as traitors and lived in danger in Iraq.  Soldiers who served there have tried to help them obtain visas without success. The change was recommended by the Pentagon, effective immediately.

Reopening overseas “black site” prisons.  The C.I.A. once tortured prisoners during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in distant secret prisons overseas.  A draft of an executive order leaked on January 25 and brought bi-partisan attacks in Congress.  Both defense secretary James Mattis and C.I.A. director Mike Pompeo had no prior knowledge of the order.  The order was pulled and a second order written referring to Guantanamo Bay prison that Obama had tried to close. At a press conference, Trump said that he supported water boarding and thought torture worked, but Mr. Mattis, who opposes torture “will override because I’m giving him that power.”

Rollback of L.G.B.T. Protections.  In early February, a proposed executive order that would have killed Obama’s orders protecting Gay Rights was circulated in White House circles.  Ivanka Trump, her husband, Jared Kushner and Gary Cohn, the chairman of the president’s Economic Council joined to express their strong opposition to Trump’s chief advisers.  They then went directly to the president, who had said at rallies that he was “against discrimination.”  Within days, the White House issued a statement that Mr. Trump “is determined to protect the rights of all Americans , including the  L.G.B.T.Q. community. The president continues to be respectful and supportive of L.G.B.T.Q. rights , just as he was throughout the election.”

Puzzlers:

Holocaust Remembrance Day. January 27, 2017.  There was a Proclamation by the President on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  “ It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember the victims, survivors and heroes of the Holocaust. It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror.”  Two similar paragraphs followed.

What was omitted was who most of the victims were!  There was no mention that six million Jewish men, women and children were singled out in Hitler’s “Final Solution” because of their religion. They were transported across Europe in death trains to concentration camps where they were murdered.

One wonders who could have written that statement without naming the  millions of people as Jews.  Could it have been Stephen Bannon, the champion of white male Europeans?  Was it deliberate to obscure the truth? Or was it a form of indifference that minimized the identity of six million human beings?

Black History Month. Frederick Douglass.  A second puzzle occurred when President Trump spoke on February 1, 2017 about the importance of honoring black Americans and their contributions to the nation.  At a “listening session”  in the White House,  he made a puzzling statement:  “I am very proud now that we have a museum on the National Mall where people can learn about Reverend King, so many other things. Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job, that is being recognized more and more, I notice.”

When Sean Spicer was asked at the press briefing later what Trump meant, he said, “ I think he wants to highlight the contributions that he has made.  And I think that through a lot of the actions and statements he’s going to make, I think the contributions of Frederick Douglass will become more and more.”

Is it possible that Donald Trump and Sean Spicer think that Frederick Douglass is alive at this time?  Are they both unaware that Frederick Douglass is a towering figure in American History.  Douglass who was born into slavery, escaped to the North and became a renowned thinker, writer , orator, newspaper publisher of “The North Star” and  social activist. He supported Women’s Suffrage from the early l837 Seneca Falls Conference. He was initially a severe critic of President Abraham Lincoln, although they later became friends.  Frederick Douglass died in 1895.  His famous “Autobiography” would make valuable reading for Donald Trump and Sean Spicer.

Polls.  Public Policy Polls (PPP) are one of the most respected of all polling systems. The  latest from February 10, 2017 reflect the enormous impact that Donald Trump has had on the American people since his inauguration as president on January 20, just three weeks ago. People are watching, listening and  protesting actions of his administration in the streets every weekend.   Here are some of the important numbers: Impeachment: 46% support this action, up from 35% two weeks ago. Clinton voters are 83% to 6%. Muslim Ban. 65 % are opposed to the ban while 22% support.  Safety. 66% believe America is a safe country while 23% consider it unsafe. Judiciary fight.  54% of Americans trust judges more to make the right decisions for the United states; 38% trust Trump more.  25%  think Trump should be able to overturn decisions by Judges that he disagrees with; 64% do not think he should be able to do this.  Transparency concerns. 62% favor Trump fully divesting himself from his business intersests ; 27 %  say he doesn’t have to do that.  Tax returns. 58 % want him to release his tax returns. 32% say he doesn’t have to do that. Trump Choice of  cabinet picks.  49 % hold negative opinion of Education Secretary DeVos, approved for first time in history by V.P. Pence breaking 50/50 tie in the Senate when two Republicans joined all Democrats.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… Joyce S. Anderson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

President Donald Trump versus The Judiciary!

 

After two weeks of signing executive orders non-stop in the White House where “ chaos management” reigned, the president finally hit a major road block.  On Friday, February 3,  Two attorneys general from Washington State and Minnesota secured from U.S. District Court Judge James Robart  a Temporary Restraining Order ( TRO)  of Trump’s  Immigration Ban, effective  nationwide immediately.   Washington Attorney General Rob Ferguson spoke on TV cable stations reporting the Breaking News, “ No one is above the law, not even the president.”   In an interview, Ferguson said he had concluded from the start that “Mr. Trump’s order was unlawful and unconstitutional”. Governor Inslee strongly backed Ferguson’s  approach, saying the executive order was a unique threat to the state’s economy.

The ban, issued on Friday, January 27,  had restricted immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East, blocking passengers en route and landing at American airports  across the country.  That weekend, lawyers flocked to help detained passengers  while 60,000 visas were  being canceled in embassies overseas.  Critics here and world-wide attacked the ban as being against American values. Lawyers were joined by political commentators who said it was in conflict with the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise of Religion Clause in the First Amendment to The Constitution.

Donald Trump was apoplectic,  posting seven  tweets on Saturday,  describing the TRO as “outrageous” , later softened to “ridiculous”,  and calling Judge Robart a “so-called judge”.  On Sunday, he tweeted: “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens, blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”   Lawyers in Seattle, describe Judge Robart, a Republican of 69, as a  “judges judge” who is unafraid of passing down unpopular rulings.   Jenny Durkan,  a former U. S. attorney said, “I think he truly believes in the independence of the judiciary  to the marrow of his bones.”  It would appear that  Donald  Trump had picked a fight and insulted the wrong Federal District Judge.  Perhaps , this temper tantrum will end in a history lesson for the president . He needs to learn about Marbury v. Madison, 1803, when Chief Justice John Marshall first laid out the concept of “Judicial Review” .  It has been an essential part of our  separation of powers  ever since.  He may then understand that as president, he is not an emperor who delivers fiats.  There are three branches of government and each has different powers.   Kazir Khan was so right when he took his copy of the Constitution out of his pocket and offered it to Trump during the campaign.

Throughout his career building a real estate empire, Trump was constantly involved in law suits.  He seemed to relish being sued after he offered contractors thirty percent of the original terms, and a long court case would ensue. His first experience had been with his father, being sued for discriminating against black renters in their apartment complexes in New York City boroughs.  They lost the law suits and paid a significant fine.  He also lost the recent law suit to New York’s Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman. Trump University was sued by former students who felt cheated on the lack of educational benefits they received for their investments.  In an editorial on the subject, The New York Times described the “so-called university” which is now defunct.

On Monday, February 5, the Justice Department turned to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.  The court scheduled an hour long oral argument for Tuesday at three oclock  Pacific Time, six o’clock Eastern time. It would be conducted on the telephone and streamed live on television cable stations. Three Appeals Court judges would hear the case. Before then, each side had certain deadlines to submit briefs arguing their positions.  There were also certain ‘amicus’, friends of the case briefs that would be filed. Fifteen states and the  District of Columbia filed an amicus brief that the ban would “cause harm to public universities, business that sustain our economy and to our residents.” Another amicus brief was filed by former Secretaries of State, John Kerry  and Madeline Albright, as well as Susan Rice, national security adviser to President Obama, and Leon Panetta, his secretary of defense and C.I.A. director.  They said Trump’s executive order would endanger American troops and intelligence sources, and have “a devastating humanitarian impact.” They also stressed, “The order offends our nation’s laws and values.”

Tuesday, February 7, 2017, the  oral arguments by telephone were streamed live to the American public.  Along with thousands of other citizens, I listened on cable TV to the three judges questioning lawyers from both sides for an hour.  I scribbled key exchanges on 8 pages of my yellow lined pad.  William Canby, 85, had been appointed by President Carter.  Richard Clifton, 66, was appointed by George W. Bush.  Barack Obama appointed Michelle Friedland, 44.  As is the custom, the judges interrupted the lawyers throughout with their questions.  The entire hour was fast paced , technical and fascinating.  Early on, Friedland asked August Flentje, the DOJ lawyer for “evidence” of terrorists  from the seven countries.  His answer indicated there was none.  Later, she posed a fundamental query to him, “Are you arguing then that the president’s decision in that regard is unreviewable?”  Flentje paused and finally said, “Yes.”  Judge Clifton asked strong questions to both lawyers, but was particularly skeptical with Noah Purcell, the solicitor general of Washinton State.  Purcell stressed that the underlying purpose of the immigration ban was religious discrimination.  He said, Mr. Trump as a candidate had “called for a complete ban on  the entry of Muslims into the country.”

Donald Trump met with a group of police chiefs and sheriffs on Wednesday  morning and weighed in on the oral hearing.  He criticized the appellate judges as failing to grasp concepts “even a bad high school student would understand.  I listened to a bunch of stuff on television last night that was disgraceful. I think it’s sad.  I think it’s a sad day. I think our security is at risk today.” He continued, “ If these judges wanted to, in my opinion, help the court in terms of respect for the court, they’d do what they should be doing. It’s so sad.”  His remarks were not surprising.  What was very surprising were the comments that his nominee for the Supreme Court,  Judge Neil Gorsuch, made in a private conversation with Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut.  Gorsuch called the president’s  criticism of independent judges, “demoralizing” and “disheartening”.   This became Breaking News on all TV cable networks’  and the front page stories on newspapers nationwide.   It was clear that Trump’s insulting remarks had caused Gorsuch to rise in defense of the independence of the judiciary.

On Thursday , February 9, the United States Ninth Circuit Appeals Court refused to lift the TRO  halting Trump’s immigration travel ban.  The decision was unanimous with all three judges agreeing that the government had not proved their case.  They forcefully rejected the government’s claim that in cases of national security, the president’s orders were “unreviewable”.  “It is beyond question that the federal judiciary retains the authority to adjudicate constitutional challenges.” ( The history lesson — John Marshall’s concept  of judicial review in Marbury v. Madison. )  Another key part of the 29 page opinion dealt with “evidence”:  “The government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States.”

Donald Trump reacted within minutes to the comprehensive ruling against him. He tweeted angrily on Twitter and to reporters in the White House:  SEE YOU IN COURT. THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!”   He also told the reporters that the ruling was “a political decision” and predicted that his administration would win an appeal, “in my opinion, very easily.”   Since an appeal to the  Supreme Court could take weeks or months to be heard,  thousands of people with restored visas will continue to come and be welcomed at airports across the country.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Joyce S. Anderson

 

Second Week: Immigration Ban, Protests, Supreme Court Nominee,Bannon Builds Power!”

 

On Friday, January 27, 2017 President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East:  Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.  The order barred refugees from anywhere in the world for 120 days and from Syria indefinitely. It also blocked any visitors from the seven countries for 90 days, as well as green card holders from returning to the United States. Although Trump had insisted he would ban all Muslims during his campaign, this abrupt order caused shock, condemnation and large protests  across the country.

By Saturday, U. S. airports were scenes of confusion and chaos as incoming passengers were detained, and crowds of protesters loudly opposed the ban.  There had never been a person from any of the seven countries who took part in 9/11  or lone wolf attacks against the United States. Most of the pilots on 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia.  Thousands of angry people chanted outside the White House and marched, carrying signs in the streets of other cities.  Trump defended his order late on Sunday in a written statement: “To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is about terror and keeping our country safe.”  Earlier on Sunday morning, he had posted on Twitter, “ Christians in the Middle East have been executed in large numbers. We cannot allow this horror to continue.”   He did not comment on the killings of Muslims in far greater numbers in Syria, Iraq  and elsewhere.

Critics on TV and in newspapers described the ban as a stain on American values and ideals.  Immigration lawyers flocked to airports to help the arriving passengers who were detained.  Four Congressional Democrats were stopped by police at Dulles Airport when they tried to enter Customs and Border Protection offices.  Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham said, “This executive order sends a signal that America does not want Muslims coming into this country. That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorists than improve our security.”  Thousands of protestors gathered again at the White House, chanting “Shame! “  with signs that read, :We are a nation of Immigrants!” and  “No hate, no fear. Refugees are welcome here!”

On Monday, January 30,  Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, Justice Department Head, challenged the president’s executive order with a statement of principle and conscience.  She wrote to the department lawyers that “ The Department of  Justice will not present arguments in defense of the executive order , unless I become convinced it is appropriate to do so. 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.”   As a long time career prosecutor with sterling credentials, Yates knew what Trump’s response would be, but she felt the magnitude of the responsibility she held in her office.  She became an instant hero to political observers and historians, who compared her to Attorney General Elliot Richardson who defied President Richard Nixon by refusing to fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox over Nixon’s incriminating White House tapes.

Trump did take action within hours, firing Sally Yates and appointing a U.S. attorney from Virginia as acting attorney general.  He declared that Yates had “betrayed” the administration, completely oblivious to the critical explanation she wrote to her lawyers.  In the days that followed , over one thousand State Department diplomats, and officers in embassies across the globe signed their names on a memo, against the Muslim ban.  They wrote, “This ban stands in opposition to the core American and constitutional values that we, as federal employees, took an oath to uphold.” . The memo warned that the ban would also alienate key allies in the Middle East losing access to “the intelligence and resources needed to fight the root causes of terror abroad, before attack occurs within our borders.”

Tuesday, January 31, Donald Trump deliberatively changed the subject. He nominated his choice for the vacant seat on The Supreme CourtNeil Gorsuch.   The seat had been empty for almost a year since Antonin Scalia died suddenly.  However, Mitch McConnell led the Republicans in the senate in blocking  Barack Obama’s  legitimate nomination of Merrick Garland, the distinguished chief of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.  They refused to meet him or invite him to the Judiciary Committee for the traditional hearing.  They refused to hold a hearing, with a vote in the committee. Thus, the full senate never had a chance to consider Garland and  vote.  It is important to stress that this has NEVER happened before in our history since the country was formed.  When a justice dies or retires, the president has the duty to nominate a replacement.  Barack Obama was denied  that important constitutional duty when the Senate Republicans did not fulfill their constitutional duties.

Neil Gorsuch, 49, a federal appeals court judge in Denver, has a record of intellectual writings and conservative opinions that reflect an originalist approach to the law similar to Scalia.  Gorsuch had clerked for Justices  Byron White and Anthony Kennedy after Harvard Law School. He also holds a Ph.D. from Oxford University.   His brief speech after Trump’s introduction on Tuesday evening was delivered with a humble demeanor.  It is expected that a tough confirmation will follow since Democrats feel this is a “stolen seat” from President Obama.  When the 20 members of the Judiciary Committee meet with Judge Gorsuch,  there will be televised sessions closely watched by the public.  The last Supreme Court hearings were for Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, both confirmed with over the necessary 60 votes.

Since the senate is now divided with 52 Republicans and 48 Democrats, the threshold of 60 may be difficult to achieve.  Democrats may decide to filibuster Gorsuch, raising objections to his nomination.  This is the only nomination requiring more than a majority vote since it is a lifetime appointment and the highest Court in the Judicial Branch.  If Mitch McConnell invokes what is known as the “nuclear option”, it would lower the number to the majority vote of 51.  However, this would be an irrevocable decision and could come back to haunt the Republicans if the Democrats gain control of the senate in the 2018 election.  Trump  has urged him publically to do that and confirm Gorsuch as soon as possible. But, McConnell may resent the president interfering in the senate’s activity and powers.  The next weeks will reveal the answer to whether Neil Gorsuch will become a Supreme Court Justice.

Stephen Bannon built his power during the second week of the Trump administration.   As chief adviser to the president, Bannon’s office is next to the oval office. He brought his years as head of Breitbart News to Donald Trump’s campaign, and he is now moving rapidly to consolidate his influence in the White House.  Bannon wrote a large part of Trump’s inaugural address with its dark vision of “carnage in America”.  On Saturday, January 28,  Trump signed an executive order that gave Bannon an unprecedented  permanent seat on the National Security Council, sitting with the secretaries of state, defense and other top officials.  No political advisor has ever been given a permanent seat.  He was also appointed to the N.S.C.’s principals committee.  At the same time, Trump removed the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the  Joint Chief of Staffs from permanent seats on the National Security Council.  They are to attend “only where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed.”

Bannon appears to wield far more political influence than chief of staff Reince Preibus  and National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn.  His main rival is Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law .  On Tuesday,  January 31,  The New York Times lead editorial was titled, “President Bannon?”  They conclude their analysis: “As a candidate, Mr. Trump was immensely gratified by the applause at his rallies to Mr. Bannon’s jingoism…  Yet, now….those same ideas are alienating American allies and damaging the presidency.  Presidents are entitled to pick their advisers. But, Mr. Trump’s first spasms of policy making have supplied ample evidence that he needs advisers who can think strategically and weigh second and third consequences  beyond the immediate domestic political effects.”

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Joyce S. Anderson