Monday, January 30, 2017
645 Days until Election Day 2018
1,373 Days until Election Day 2020
Good morning! Reporting from WUTP world HQ (in my bedroom), I'm Gabe Fleisher: this is your wake up call.
WEEKEND REVIEW: Trump Implements Immigration Order to Mass Confusion, Protests
- President Donald Trump signed a controversial executive order on Friday afternoon, blocking all refugees from entering the United States for 120 days and barring entry to the U.S. for 90 days for any citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. "We are not admitting into the country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas," President Trump said as he signed the order, declaring that it would "keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United Stats of America."
- The order also ended the Syrian refugee program indefinitely and limited the number of refugees that the U.S. will take in this year to 50,000 (from 110,000), with religious minorities in predominantly Muslim nations (mainly Christians) slated to be given preference after the 120-day clock expires.
- Confusion immediately came as the order was rolled out over the weekend, with airports unsure of how to deal with affected individuals who were in transit at the time President Trump enacted it. Over 100 people who had been previously cleared to enter the U.S. with visas or refugee status were detained for hours at airports across the country.
- Two significant changes have been made to the executive order over the weekend: emergency lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups succeeded in allowing the detained individuals to remain in the United States. Four federal judges issued injunctions Saturday night and Sunday morning clarifies parts of the order, with a Brooklyn-based judge ruling that the government was "enjoined and restrained from, in any manner and by any means, removing individuals" who had already touched down in the U.S. and possessed valid visas or refugee status.
- Two Massachusetts-based judges ruled hours later that those individuals could also not be detained; another ruling came in Virginia to ensure access to legal assistance for detainees at Dulles airport. Rulings in Washington state and California stopped deportations of specific individuals, with the latter judge directing the federal government to return someone who had already been deported to Iran.
- In addition, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Sunday that part of the executive order was being softened, deciding that green card-holders from the seven countries would be allowed to return to the United States, where they have permanent residency, despite an initial DHS announcement that green card-holders would be precluded from re-entry under the order unless they received a waiver.
- The slight scaling-back came amid enormous pressure from lawmakers, mainly Democrats but also a number of top Republicans. According to the Washington Post, 16 congressional Republicans have announced opposition to the travel ban; 23 more have expressed reservations or declined to offer fully support the order. A number of House and Senate Democrats, including Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), joined activists across the country protesting Trump's order at U.S. airports. The most prominent GOP criticism of the order came in a joint statement by Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
- "We should not stop those who have served as interpreters for our military and diplomats from seeking refuge in the country they risked their lives to help," the two senior Republicans wrote. "And we should not turn our backs on those refugees who have been shown through extensive vetting to pose no demonstrable threat to our nation, and who have suffered unspeakable horrors, most of them women and children." Other Republican lawmakers agreed, including Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona ("it's unacceptable"), Ben Sasse of Nebraska ("too broad"), and Reps. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania ("this is ridiculous") and Will Hurd of Texas ("the ultimate display of mistrust").
- House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) was among a small group of Republicans to offer support for Trump's executive order (the vast majority have stayed silent). "President Trump is right to make sure we are doing everything possible to know exactly who is entering our country," he said in a statement on Friday. Ryan's Senate counterpart, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was more cautious, telling ABC on Sunday that "we don't have religious tests in this country" but "I don't want to criticize them for improving vetting."
- President Trump responded to the critical members of his party, tweeting Sunday: "The joint statement of former presidential candidates John McCain & Lindsey Graham is wrong - they are sadly weak on immigration," he said in two succeeding posts. "The two...Senators should focus their energies on ISIS, illegal immigration and border security instead of always looking to start World War III."
- Trump also defended his executive order in a statement on Sunday. "America has always been the land of the free and home of the brave," the President's statement read. "We will keep it free and keep it safe, as the media knows, but refuses to say...To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion - this is about terror and keeping our country safe."
- The President also cited actions by former President Barack Obama to provide precedent for his travel ban, pointing to a 2011 visa ban for Iraqi refugees and the Obama Administration's list of sources of terror (which is identical to the seven countries Trump named in his order). "I have tremendous feeling for the people involved in this horrific humanitarian crisis in Syria," Trump also wrote. "My first priority will always be to protect and serve our country, but as President I will find ways to help all those who are suffering.”
- The "Muslim ban" he insisted the order was not is a reference to his campaign-trail plan to ban all travel by Muslims into the United States. While this order is not that extreme, many opponents condemned it as about the same thing. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, a close Trump adviser, told Fox News on Saturday that the President told him to "put a commission together [and] show me the right way to do it legally." According to Giuliani, the executive order was intended to focus on nationality and not religion. The order affects citizens from "areas of the world that create danger for us" on a "factual basis, not a religious basis," he said, which he characterized as "perfectly legal, perfectly sensible."
- Even after the judicial rulings, much of President Trump's order remains in place. "The Department of Homeland Security will continue to enforce all of President Trump’s Executive Orders in a manner that ensures the safety and security of the American people," a DHS statement announced on Sunday. "President Trump’s Executive Orders remain in place—prohibited travel will remain prohibited, and the U.S. government retains its right to revoke visas at any time if required for national security or public safety."
- A senior administration official told reporters that the executive order "really is a massive success story in terms of implementation on every single level," saying that of the 325,000 people who enter the country on a typical day, just 109 were "set aside for further questioning" and all 170 green card-holders who applied for waivers received them.
- Despite White House insistence of a smooth implementation, many news reports have told a story of confusion even in Trump's own Administration. According to CNN, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and senior advisor Stephen Miller overruled DHS objections to parts of the ban to rush its execution; the New York Times reported that the Secretary of Homeland Security was discussing the order on a conference call when his team realized it was being signed without their knowledge.
- Trump's staff reportedly failed to notify a number of key immigration officials, as well as congressional Republicans and allies around the globe; the order was crafted by Bannon and Miller, but no legal review was then sought, leading to added confusion throughout the weekend as chaos reigned in airport terminals.
- Bannon Rising The executive order is a sign of increased power for Steve Bannon, formerly the executive chairman of Breitbart News, which has been linked to white supremacist and anti-Semitic views. Bannon is reportedly gaining favor in Trump's White House, rising above Chief of Staff Reince Priebus to become the most powerful presidential aide.
- His stamp is seen in nearly all of the domestic actions implemented by Trump so far; in addition, a reorganization of the National Security Council signed by the President on Saturday placed Bannon on the NSC Principals Committee, while removing the Director of National Intelligence and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from the committee.
White House Watch
- The President's Schedule Here's what President Donald Trump is doing today:
- At 9am, the President will hold a breakfast and listening session with small business leaders in the Roosevelt Room, following up on similar meetings he held last week with labor, manufacturing, and auto industry leaders.
- At 10:30am, he will sign an Executive Order in the Oval Office, his seventh since being sworn in ten days ago. The subject of today's order has not yet been announced, although the Washington Post reported last week that many draft orders are coming down the pike, including orders affecting U.S. participation in international treaties and organizations, reviewing cyber vulnerabilities, and adding the Muslim Brotherhood to the State Department's list of terror groups. In addition, White House press secretary Sean Spicer indicated over the weekend that the President will soon sign an executive order to launch his promised investigation into voter fraud, despite a lack of evidence to support Trump's claim that millions voted illegally against him.
- At 11:30am, Trump will meet with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus in the Oval Office.
- At 12:30pm, the President will have his second weekly lunch with Vice President Mike Pence in the Presidential Dining Room, continuing a tradition followed by every president-vice president pair since Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale.
- President Trump will finish his day (according to the public schedule) by holding three Oval Office meetings with Administration officials: sitting down with Domestic Policy Council director Andrew Bremberg at 1:30pm, with "presidential personnel" at 2:30pm, and with National Economic Council staff at 4pm.
- Supreme Court Pick Coming Multiple news outlets reported over the weekend that President Trump's nominee to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat will be coming sooner than expected. Despite the President's tweet last week that the announcement would be this coming Thursday, his pick is now more likely to be unveiled today or tomorrow.
- According to reports, three federal appeals court judges, all appointed by Geroge W. Bush, make up the short list: Tenth Circuit judge Neil Gorsuch, Third Circuit judge Neil Hardiman, and Eleventh Circuit judge William Pryor. Per ABC, Gorsuch and Hardiman are the frontrunners; additionally, the Associated Press has reported that Seventh Circuit judge Diane Sykes is a potential fourth option.
- As the AP noted: "As a candidate, Trump often used surprise announcements to shift attention away from negative coverage." An earlier announcement would almost surely pre-empt the news cycle, taking media coverage away from opposition to Trump's refugee ban and onto his Supreme Court pick.
- Two more things... First off, as you may know, WUTP has posted the President's schedule in every newsletter since its founding in 2011, always by finding it on one of the few others websites that still posts the schedule in its entirety. Today, for the first time, I no longer had to rely on those sites: over the weekend, WUTP was officially added to the White House press list, so I can now directly bring you the full presidential schedule every day!
- Secondly, if you're curious who the White House staff that President Trump is meeting with today - and who they've worked for - check out the relationship map I created. Using the map, you can see who is close to all 111 Trump Administration appointees announced so far, and discover (for example) that: 16 served in the Armed Forces, 7 have ties to the Koch Brothers, 3 worked at Breitbart News, etc.
- Vice President's Schedule Vice President Mike Pence will have breakfast today with King Abdullah II of Jordan, who is visiting Washington this week. The monarch will be the first Arab leader to meet with the Trump Administration; Jordan is one of the majority-Muslim countries not included in Friday's executive order.
Capitol Hill News
- Today in Congress Both houses of Congress will meet today, after recessing for much of last week.
- The Senate convenes at 3pm, with just one roll call scheduled: a procedural vote to advance the nomination of former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State. A final vote on Tillerson is expected to come tomorrow or Wednesday. He is expected to receive the support of all 52 Senate Republicans, as well as from Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (WV) and Heidi Heitkamp (ND).
- Two other Trump Cabinet nominees are expected to receive committee votes today: hedge fund manager and Treasury Secretary-designate Steven Mnuchin and Trump's nominee to lead the Small Business Administration, former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon.
- Meanwhile, the House will convene at 12pm; seven votes are scheduled for today, all focused on natural resources and National Park properties.
- Also today: House and Senate Democrats are holding a 6pm rally on the steps of the Supreme Court to oppose the travel ban. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) promised on Sunday that Democrats would introduce legislation to overturn the order, fighting back tears as he spoke (which President Trump mocked him for in a tweet this morning).
*All Times Eastern
For more on Wake Up To Politics, listen to Gabe on NPR's "Talk of the Nation", St. Louis Public Radio, the Political Junkie podcast, and on StoryCorps; watch Gabe on MSNBC's "Up with Steve Kornacki"; and read about Gabe in Politico, the Washington Post, Independent Journal, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Salon, the Globe, and the St. Louis Jewish Light.