Donald Trump was busy this weekend. He spoke with Vladimir Putin by phone, which barely warranted mention in the media because of everything else he was doing destroying the country.
He removed the Director of National Intelligence and the Chair of the Joint Chiefs as automatic National Security Council Principals Committee members, and established Steve Bannon as a member of the Principals Committee. This is an utterly alarming politicization of the NSC.
He tweeted about the media, again, suggesting someone with money should buy the New York Times and run it in a way that favors him—which, as Ryan Lizza observed, "is what dictators do. They try to silence independent outlets by encouraging rich friends to buy or close them. We are in a scary place."
And he signed an executive order banning new visas for citizens from seven majority Muslim countries: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, and Somalia, which will have far-reaching effects "well beyond preventing newcomers from" those countries:
It's also expected to have substantial effects on hundreds of thousands of people from these countries who already live in the U.S. under green cards or on temporary student or employee visas.It's also flatly unconstitutional, as Trump has made clear [CN: video may autoplay] that Christian refugees will be given priority over Muslims. To underscore the point, he tweeted Sunday morning:
Since the order's travel ban applies to all "aliens" — a term that encompasses anyone who isn't an American citizen — it could bar those with current visas or even green cards from returning to the U.S. from trips abroad, said Stephen Legomsky, a former chief counsel to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under President Obama.
"It's extraordinarily cruel," he said.
Christians in the Middle-East have been executed in large numbers. We cannot allow this horror to continue!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 29, 2017
Within hours of Trump signing the Muslim ban he threatened throughout his campaign, ISIS starting using Trump's order in recruitment propaganda.
A mosque in Texas went up in flames. People were stopped and detained at airports, including Iraqis who had worked with the U.S. military, risking their lives to do so.
Protesters descended on airports across the United States, demanding that the refugees and immigrants who were being detained be allowed into the country. Legal aides showed up to assist. Elected Democrats joined protesters at the airports.
The ACLU filed a suit on behalf of two Iraqi men who were en route to the U.S. when Trump signed his disgusting executive order banning them. A federal court granted a stay.
And, in response, the Department of Homeland Security issued a statement making plain they have no intention of respecting the court's ruling. Such a flagrant disregard for the court is, as Imani Gandy noted, a feature of totalitarianism.
Checks and balances are also only as good as an administration is willing to respect them.
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As I noted on Twitter, it's critical to understand that Muslim refugees being targeted have already been thoroughly vetted. Many have risked their lives aiding the U.S. Many/most of the people being denied are not just immigrants (although that, too) but refugees. In many cases, their homes are GONE.
Many undocumented people coming to the U.S. via our southern border, targeted by Trump's wall, are fleeing violence and seeking refuge. They, too, are refugees. Trump has cast Muslim refugees as potential terrorists who want to harm us, and Latinx refugees as rapists who want to harm us. Let's be very clear about that: People seeking refuge from violence are being cast as violent threats by the U.S. president.
And let's further be clear that this isn't just about "immigration." Trump is the son of an immigrant and the husband of an immigrant. This is very specifically about brown people who are seeking asylum from harm. And they're being cast as dangerous. Why would that be? Because this is an opening salvo in a vast white supremacist agenda. See also Trump's attacks on Chicago and Philly as uniquely dangerous. Trump is projecting onto people or color and/or religious minorities the INTENT TO HARM that is a central feature of his own agenda.
It's not just the ban or the wall or the threat of martial law in diverse cities. It's that he is justifying them with assertions of danger. The tactic is designed to: 1. Other. 2. Erode empathy for the Other. 3. Create fear of the Other. 4. Engender hatred of the Other. The ban is AWFUL on its own. But it is only the foundation for a strategy of division that will lead to things worse than we have conjured. And it's critical to view all of these things as part of that complex strategy.
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Meanwhile, on Sunday's Meet the Press, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus was asked by Chuck Todd why a White House statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day failed to mention Jews. And Priebus' answer was taken straight from the Holocaust deniers' playbook.
CHUCK TODD: There was an issue with— On Friday, the White House put out a statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day. And there wasn't a mention of Jews in the statement of any, of the victims of the Holocaust, that a majority of them were Jewish. Many of us thought it was an error. You guys were there early. And then it turns out it was not. John Podhoretz, a conservative columnist from Commentary magazine wrote this: "The Final Solution was aimed solely at the Jews. The Holocaust was about the Jews. There is no 'proud' way to offer a remembrance of the Holocaust that does not reflect that simple, awful world historical fact. To universalize it to, quote, 'All those who suffered,' is to scrub the Holocaust of its meaning." Mr. Priebus, do you understand why many Jews were offended by the White House's decision not to note that the Holocaust was about eradicating the Jews?Following Priebus on Meet the Press was Senator Tim Kaine, who, quite rightly, called this out as Holocaust denialism as he also drew the crucial connection between Trump's anti-Muslim executive order being issued on the same day: "I think all of these things are happening together. When you have the chief political advisor in the White House, Steve Bannon, who is connected with a news organization that traffics in white supremacy and anti-Semitism and they put out a Holocaust statement that omits any mention of Jews... The final solution was about the slaughter of Jews. We have to remember this. This is what Holocaust denial is. It's either to deny that it happened or many Holocaust deniers acknowledge, 'Oh yeah people were killed. But it was a lot of innocent people. Jews weren't targeted.' The fact that they did that and imposed this religious test against Muslims in the executive orders on the same day, this is not a coincidence."
REINCE PRIEBUS: Well, I recognize, in fact, obviously that that was what the Holocaust was about. And it's a horrible event. And obviously a miserable time in history that we remember here at the White House and certainly will never forget the Jewish people that suffered in World War II. And obviously still incredible wounds that remain in a time in history that was of great, incredible, horrific magnitude. And everyone's heart here is impacted by the memory of that terrible time. And so, for the record, that's the case. And—
TODD: Do you regret—
PRIEBUS: —certainly we don't mean—
TODD: —does the president regret not—
PRIEBUS: —any ill-will to anybody.
TODD: Do you regret—
PRIEBUS: I don't about regret. It's just— No.
TODD: —the statement?
PRIEBUS: There's no—
TODD: There's no regret not acknowledging the pain that—
PRIEBUS: We acknowledge it. We acknowledge the—
TODD: But you didn't—
PRIEBUS: —horrible time of the Holocaust.
TODD: —but why whitewash—
PRIEBUS: —and what it meant for history, and so.
TODD: —but why white-wash Jews from that statement?
PRIEBUS: I'm not white-washing anything, Chuck. I just told—
TODD: The statement did.
PRIEBUS: —you that it was horrible. And, well, I'm telling you now that that's the way we feel about it. And it's a terrible time in history. And obviously I think you know that President Trump has dear family members that are Jewish. And there was no harm or ill-will or offense intended by any of that.
TODD: But you— So you don't— But you don't regret the statement? You don't regret the words that were chosen in the statement and the words—
PRIEBUS: I don't regret the words, Chuck.
TODD: —that were not included?
PRIEBUS: I'm trying to clear it up for you. I mean, everyone's suffering in the Holocaust, including obviously all of the Jewish people affected and the miserable genocide that occurred, is something that we consider to be extraordinarily sad and something that can never be forgotten and something that if we could wipe it off of the history books we could. But we can't. And it's terrible. I mean, I don't know what more to tell you.
Unfortunately, Kaine then went on to talk about how Democrats would potentially work with Trump on issues like infrastructure: "Eight years ago Democrats and President Obama made a major investment in the infrastructure in this country. No Republicans supported it. But Democrats did it and it helped the country. And if President Trump wants to do that, we'll work with him on it. Hopefully maybe a Republican will vote for it this time. So we're not closing the door on doing what's right for the good of the country. But right now we think this administration poses a real threat to our reputation, our values and our people. And we're going to battle."
Okay. Whew. So here's the thing, though:
["This segment" refers to the above Priebus segment on Meet the Press.]
Any Democrat considering working with Trump on ANYTHING needs to watch this segment. This is what you will be normalizing. https://t.co/6ePNDrhqyd— Melissa McEwan (@Shakestweetz) January 29, 2017
You can't object to an administration engaging in Holocaust denial and launching a Crusade, then agree to work with them on infrastructure.— Melissa McEwan (@Shakestweetz) January 29, 2017
This is a time for unilateral obstructionism. You can't tease apart X policy from the overarching agenda of authoritarian white supremacy.— Melissa McEwan (@Shakestweetz) January 29, 2017
There is no neutral. There is only resistance or complicity. Make your choice.