Archive

February 3rd, 2017

The danger of Steve Bannon on the National Security Council

    While demonstrators poured into airports to protest the Trump administration's draconian immigration policies, another presidential memorandum signed this weekend may have even more lasting, wide-ranging and dangerous consequences. The document sounds like a simple bureaucratic shuffle, outlining the shape the National Security Council will take under President Donald Trump. Instead, it is deeply worrisome.

    The idea of the National Security Council (NSC), established in 1947, is to ensure that the president has the best possible advice from his Cabinet, the military and the intelligence community before making consequential decisions, and to ensure that, once those decisions are made, a centralized mechanism exists to guarantee their effective implementation. The NSC is effectively the central nervous system of the U.S. foreign policy and national security apparatus.

    Trump's memorandum described the structure of his NSC - not unusual given that the exact composition shifts in modest ways from administration to administration. The problem lies in the changes that he made.

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The U.S. once invited me here because I'm Iraqi. Now Trump wants to ban me for it.

    Last Tuesday night, I got an unexpected and somewhat frantic call from my lawyer asking whether I was outside the U.S. and pleading with me to return immediately: "Trump might be signing an executive order that would ban people from Iraq, and a few other countries, from entering the country." I was in Vancouver to see my little brother's acting debut. There was no way I was going to miss that.

    But trying to be prudent and heed the lawyer's advice, I showed up at the airport five hours before my flight Wednesday morning to get through immigration before the potential ban could take effect. I'm an Iraqi citizen who works at Facebook as a software engineer. It was just a matter of lucky timing that I wasn't stranded far from my home the way so many people from the countries covered by President Donald Trump's arbitrary and unnecessary new immigration orders were.

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I tried to fly home to the US on Friday but I couldn't

    On Thursday night, I looked at the news while visiting my family here and realized I had a problem. President Donald Trump would be signing executive orders the next day. One of them would ban me from returning to my home in Greenville, S.C., and it did cause federal agents to block me from my flight from Dubai to Washington on Friday night.

    I've lived in South Carolina since 2013, when I started my doctoral studies in industrial engineering at Clemson University. I was born in a middle-class family in Tehran, raised by parents who taught me to love and respect people regardless of their race, religion or background. I learned to value education for its contributions to community life, its role in advancing social justice, its capacity to open worlds of cultural and artistic excellence - for the way it helps humanity flourish.

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The revolt of the American judicial branch

 

    In a swift and remarkable assertion of their constitutional power, Justice Department lawyers and a host of state attorneys general defiantly opposed President Trump's order to deny sanctuary to refugees and bar travelers from seven designated Muslim countries.

    The refusal of acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates, an Obama carry-over, to defend the Trump executive order triggered Trump to fire her Monday night, reminiscent of the stormy "Saturday Night Massacre" of 1973, in which President Richard Nixon forced the removal of his own attorney general and his deputy in a scandal that eventually led to Nixon's own resignation.

    Trump's steamroller of executive orders signaled his intent to fulfill his campaign pledge to change how Washington works. Instead, he fomented resistance from state attorneys general across the country, who filed stays to the Trump anti-Muslim refugee order.

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I had to flee Iran's repression. Trump's order may keep me from my only child.

    I am an Iranian, a journalist, a campaigner against Islamic extremism and a 40-year-old mother. I was forced to flee Iran's media crackdown with my teenage son, Pouyan, in 2009. I came to the United States as a green-card holder in 2014 after being a political refugee in the United Kingdom for five years. Due to my work, I cannot go back to Iran.

    After seven years of being in exile due to Iran's repression, I feel as if I am facing another crackdown, thanks to President Trump. His executive order to suspend the flow of refugees into the United States for 120 days, and to halt immigration for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for at least 90 days, could prevent me from seeing Pouyan, my only child, who is a now a student in the U.K. We feel as if we are both in limbo. I am unsure if he can come see me, or if can I go visit him, without being deprived of the right to come back to the United States. If were unable to return, it would be the end of my life here as I know it. When I think about not being able to see him, I feel sick.

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Democrats should use the coming court fight to spotlight Donald Trump's authoritarianism. Here's how.

    President Donald Trump's nomination of Colorado appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court presents Democrats with an opportunity. They can use the nomination fight to shine a light on Trump's authoritarian tendencies and serial undermining of our democratic norms, via lines of questioning that probe whether the courts can be counted on to act as a check on those impulses, which are already visibly motivating the Trump presidency.

    Gorsuch is being widely hailed by Republicans and conservatives for, among other things, his belief in constitutional originalist philosophy and his rulings on religious liberty. Liberals and Democrats, The Post reports, are blasting him as a "tool of conservative activists who would gut protections for consumers, workers, clean air and water, safe food and medicine and roll back the rights of women and LGBT people."

    All that will get litigated in due time, but another area that hopefully will also get aired out centers on whether our institutions -- in this case, the courts -- will function as a check on Trump's excesses.

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Executive order is a shameful stain on our country.

    When they came through the arrivals gate at John F. Kennedy International Airport in 1968, my parents could have been seen as a threat.

    It was the middle of the Cold War, and my parents - my mom was 21 and my dad was 23 - had spent their entire lives behind the Iron Curtain in a communist country. And 1968 was the bloodiest year yet for American troops in a war being fought to contain communism. Nearly 17,000 Americans died that year in Vietnam.

    And here came my parents through the airport gates in the middle of all of that, in the fanciest clothes they owned, two people with paperwork - Czechoslovakian passports - that linked them to communism.

    They were not detained, they were not questioned. They were allowed into a country symbolized by the Statue of Liberty.

    That was the America of 1968. It is not the America of today.

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Democrats prepare for a political war

    Democrats will probably overwhelmingly oppose President Donald Trump's nomination of conservative jurist Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. That's a reflection of the party's growing conviction that all-out opposition to the Republican agenda is a winning political strategy.

    Their role model is Senate leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, who for eight years had one objective: Thwart President Barack Obama at every turn. That strategy culminated with the decision last year to reject the Supreme Court nomination of U.S. Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland without even giving him a hearing.

    Politics more than merit will dominate the debate over Judge Gorsuch. It started almost immediately after Trump's Tuesday night announcement when Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, a former Harvard Law School professor, lashed out at the Gorsuch record and said she'd oppose him.

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Building a Wall of Ignorance

    We’re just over a week into the Trump-Putin regime, and it’s already getting hard to keep track of the disasters. Remember the president’s temper tantrum over his embarrassingly small inauguration crowd? It already seems like ancient history.

    But I want to hold on, just for a minute, to the story that dominated the news on Thursday, before it was, er, trumped by the uproar over the refugee ban. As you may recall — or maybe you don’t, with the crazy coming so thick and fast — the White House first seemed to say that it would impose a 20 percent tariff on Mexico, but may have been talking about a tax plan, proposed by Republicans in the House, that would do no such thing; then said that it was just an idea; then dropped the subject, at least for now.

    For sheer viciousness, loose talk about tariffs isn’t going to match slamming the door on refugees, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, no less. But the tariff tale nonetheless epitomizes the pattern we’re already seeing in this shambolic administration — a pattern of dysfunction, ignorance, incompetence, and betrayal of trust.

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Yates vs. Trump, the Constitution wins

    The Monday night massacre -- as President Donald Trump's firing of acting Attorney General Sally Yates was inevitably called -- lacked the grand madness of Richard Nixon's famous firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox on Oct. 20, 1973, which prompted the resignations of the attorney general and the deputy attorney general.

    Trump's peremptory dismissal of Yates for refusing to enforce his executive order on immigration came symbolically at the beginning of his presidency, not with the end in sight, as in Nixon's case.

    But Trump's action was nevertheless redolent of self-destructive bravado, much like Nixon's. While technically within the authority of the executive, both actions revealed the instincts of a president who believed that he could get away with firing a subordinate to avoid the embarrassment of government institutions turning against him. Nixon was proved wrong -- and while Trump is not in danger of imminent impeachment, he's going to wear the shame of this firing for a long time.

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