Democrats stiffen resistance
Democratic leaders are scrambling to get in front of the anti-Trump protest movement that snowballed after his executive order halting entry from seven Muslim-majority countries. On Capitol Hill, lines are hardening.
The vast majority of Senate Democrats are prepared to filibuster President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee — whom he plans to announce Tuesday night — no matter who it is, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) told Politico.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he would try to delay confirmation for “just about every one” of Trump’s nominees — and oppose eight of them — although they would eventually go through if the GOP majority holds.
Trump singled out his fellow New Yorker for ridicule Monday. A day before, Schumer choked up as he denounced the “mean-spirited and un-American” order.
“I noticed Charles E. Schumer yesterday with fake tears,” Trump said at the White House. “I’m gonna ask him who is his acting coach because I know him very well, I don’t see him as a crier.” (Video here.)
On CNN later, Schumer said Trump’s “name-calling” is a sign “he doesn’t take this presidency seriously enough.”
Justice chief: Can’t defend this
Acting Attorney General Sally Yates — an Obama holdover and career government lawyer — told Justice Department lawyers not to make legal arguments defending Trump’s order because she is not “convinced” that it “is lawful.”
Trump’s first response, on Twitter, was to complain about being stuck with “an Obama A.G.” because the “Democrats are delaying my cabinet picks for purely political reasons.”
Soon after, Yates was yanked from the job and replaced by Dana Boente, who has been the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. A White House statement said Yates had “betrayed” the department.
Trump’s choice for attorney general, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, is due to get his final hearing from the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
The Washington Post reports Sessions’ allies already inside the White House helped rush the order through for Trump’s signature as part of a “shock and awe” strategy for the first days of the new administration.
Out of his control
What caused the chaos at international airports throughout the weekend? Trump said his order was not to blame, reports Newsday’s Emily Ngo.
“Big problems at airports were caused by Delta computer outage ... protesters and the tears of Senator Schumer,” Trump tweeted. The Delta outage didn’t occur until Sunday night.
As for why the order was rushed through, his tweets said: “If the ban were announced with a one week notice, the ‘bad’ would rush into our country during that week. A lot of bad ‘dudes’ out there!”
Actually, the process to obtain visas from the targeted countries takes weeks, at a minimum.
On Monday night, the dismissal of acting Immigration and customs enforcement director Daniel Ragsdale was announced. No reason was given. The job was given to Thomas Homan, a onetime New York police officer.
Out of the loop
At least three top national security officials — Defense Secretary James Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson — have told associates they weren’t told about the order’s details until around the time Trump signed it, The Associated Press reports.
Mattis was described as particularly incensed. The Pentagon was trying to exempt Iraqis who worked alongside U.S. and coalition forces from the 90-day ban on entry from the predominantly Muslim countries.
Obama: ‘Heartened’ by protests
Before he left office, former President Barack Obama pledged to speak about Trump’s policies only “where I think our core values may be at stake.” That took 10 days.
A spokesman said Obama “fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion” and “is heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country.”
The take-away: Base is pleased
Within his base, Trump pays no political price for the travel-ban order, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison. It’s seen as a promise kept.
“You’ve got to have a border to be a country, and that’s what it really amounts to,” said a Newsday reader, who called about coverage of the criticism. “Maybe they’re not doing it right. So straighten out the problems. But we love what Trump is doing.”
Holocaust message uproar
Republicans are among the latest critics of a Holocaust Remembrance Day statement from the White House last week that did not specifically mention Jews as victims.
The Republican Jewish Coalition — heavily funded by mega donor Sheldon Adelson — called it “an unfortunate omission.” Sen. Susan Collins of Maine tweeted that “omission of the Jewish people in a Holocaust remembrance statement is an historical mistake.”
Press Secretary Sean Spicer called the continuing questioning of the statement “pathetic,” asserting “The statement was written with the help of an individual who is both Jewish and the descendant of Holocaust survivors.” Spicer wouldn’t say who, but Politico reported it was Trump aide Boris Epshteyn, a Russian Jewish immigrant.
Take your job and shove off
Since the Vietnam War, a State Department “dissent channel” has allowed career employees to offer higher-ups alternative views on foreign policy without fear of retaliation.
Accordingly, scores of diplomats have signed a memo opposing Trump’s travel ban, saying it “will not achieve its stated aim to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States.”
Responded Spicer, when asked about it at his briefing: They should “either get with the program or they can go.”
What else is happening
- Syrian Christians who have settled in Pennsylvania offer some support for Trump's controversial travel ban, the Washington Post reports.
- Trump’s makeover of the National Security Council got another makeover: CIA Director Mike Pompeo was added to the group Monday. Still in a reduced role: the director of National Intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Still at the table: political strategist Steve Bannon.
- GOP leaders in Congress are angry that they were not consulted before Trump’s travel ban focused on Muslim countries was issued, The Washington Post reports. “If this type of behavior continues, then this administration is going to lose all of its friends very quickly,” one Senate GOP aide said.
- Gregg Phillips, a man whom Trump has promoted as an authority on voter fraud, was registered to vote in three states — Alabama, Texas and Mississippi — during the 2016 presidential election, The Associated Press reported. He voted only in Alabama.
- Billionaire industrialist and GOP mega donor Charles Koch is launching a campaign to sink a proposed border tax to pay for Trump’s Mexican border wall, Reuters says.
- A growing roster of corporate leaders opposes the travel ban. Among them, the heads of Ford, Amazon, Netflix, Starbucks, Expedia, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, General Electric, JPMorgan Chase, Yelp, Facebook and Tesla, CNN says.
- The Senate voted 56-43 to end a Democratic filibuster of Tillerson’s nomination. A final vote is expected this week.
- Trump complained for years to the FAA, to no avail, that planes from nearby Palm Beach International Airport flew too low and noisily over his Mar-a-Lago estate. No worries now. Whenever he’s there as president, there will be a 1-mile “no-fly” zone, the FAA said.