When Donald Trump learned that a federal district court had refused to reinstate his Muslim ban last week, he tweeted in all caps, “SEE YOU IN COURT!” Aside from this strange reaction to a court decision, Trump’s angry outburst raises the question: Is the president allowed to have whatever he wants? To better understand the limits of his power, let’s look back at his attempt to unilaterally impose the Muslim ban, and the ways in which it has been blocked so far.
A week after he was inaugurated, Trump created a constitutional showdown by issuing his executive order prohibiting nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.
People from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen and Sudan were banned from the US for 90 days. The executive order also indefinitely forbade Syrian refugees, even those granted visas, from entry into the US. And it suspended the resettlement of all refugees for 120 days.Read more
Rapper Busta Rhymes pegged it at the Grammy Awards when he referred to Donald Trump as “President Agent Orange.” While performing with A Tribe Called Quest and Anderson Paak, Rhymes used the opportunity to call out Trump for his Muslim ban and “all of the evil” Trump has perpetrated since assuming the presidency three weeks ago.
Rhymes said, “I just wanna thank President Agent Orange for perpetuating all of the evil that you’ve been perpetrating throughout the United States,” adding, “I wanna thank President Agent Orange for your unsuccessful attempt at the Muslim ban. Now we come together! We the people! We the people! We the people!”
For some younger readers who may not be familiar with the term, Agent Orange was an herbicidal chemical weapon sprayed over 12 percent of Vietnam by the U.S. military from 1961 to 1971. The dioxin present in Agent Orange is one of the most toxic chemicals known to humankind.Read more
On January 27, 2017, President Trump made good on his campaign promise to institute a ban on Muslims entering the US. Trump’s executive order(“EO”) is titled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.”
The EO bars nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries from the US for at least 90 days. They include Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, and Sudan. The EO also indefinitely prevents Syrian refugees, even those granted visas, from entering the US. And it suspends the resettlement of all refugees for 120 days.
None of the 9/11 hijackers came from the seven countries covered by the EO; 15 of the 19 men hailed from Saudi Arabia, which is not on the list. No one from the seven listed countries has mounted a fatal terrorist attack in the United States.
Countries exempted from the EO include Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates — countries where Trump apparently has business ties.Read more
As promised, President Trump has nominated to the Supreme Court a judge in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Neil Gorsuch, like Scalia, is an “originalist,” who interprets the Constitution the way he thinks the founders intended and a “textualist,” who favors the plain meaning of statutes and the Constitution.
Gorsuch is a very conservative judge who would likely rubber-stamp much of Trump’s reactionary agenda. At age 49, Gorsuch, who would be the youngest justice on the Court if confirmed, could help shape US jurisprudence for three or four decades.Read more
In the great tradition of Clarence Darrow, Charles Garry, Ernest Goodman, William Kunstler, Carol Weiss King, Arthur Kinoy, Constance Baker Motley and Michael Ratner, legendary people’s lawyer Leonard Weinglass defended the poor and disenfranchised who struggled for social justice.
Weinglass is now immortalized in “Len: A Lawyer in History,” a valuable graphic historical work by cartoonist/writer Seth Tobocman. The book features some of Weinglass’ most significant cases, analyzing them in the historical context of the political movements in which they took place.Read more
After overseeing the aggressive prosecution and near-seven-year incarceration of Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, President Obama – in one of his last acts in office – commuted all but four months of her remaining sentence but ignored the fact that he had taken no action on the war crimes that Manning revealed.
At his final news conference, Obama explained his reasons for commuting Manning’s record-setting 35-year sentence for leaking classified information to the public. Manning is scheduled to be released on May 17.
“Chelsea Manning has served a tough prison sentence,” Obama said. “It has been my view that given she went to trial; that due process was carried out; that she took responsibility for her crime; that the sentence that she received was very disproportionate relative to what other leakers had received; and that she had served a significant amount of time; that it made sense to commute and not pardon her sentence. … I feel very comfortable that justice has been served.”
But there has been no justice for the Iraqis and Afghans whose unjustified deaths and mistreatment were exposed by the then-22-year-old Army private, known at the time as Bradley Manning. An Army intelligence analyst in Iraq, Manning sent hundreds of thousands of classified files, documents and videos, including the “Collateral Murder” video, the “Iraq War Logs,” the “Afghan War Logs” and State Department cables, to WikiLeaks. Many of the items that she transmitted contained evidence of war crimes.Read more
During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump declared he would “immediately” resume waterboarding and would “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding” because the United States is facing a “barbaric” enemy. He labeled waterboarding a “minor form” of interrogation.
Waterboarding, which involves pouring water into the nose and mouth to make victims feel like they’re drowning, has long been considered torture, which is a war crime under US and international law. Indeed, the United States hung Japanese military leaders for waterboarding as a war crime after World War II.
In late November 2016, Vice President Mike Pence refused to rule out torture in the Trump administration.Read more
Although Jeff Sessions’ confirmation as attorney general of the United States by the GOP-controlled Senate is a foregone conclusion, it is still important to analyze his Senate Judiciary Committee testimony, which shed a troubling light on his positions.
In his responses to the senators’ questions, Sessions loudly protested the idea that he has ever embraced racism, homophobia or sexism. Calling allegations of racism “incredibly painful,” Sessions assured the senators, “I abhor the Klan and all it represents.” However, that has not always been the case. He once joked that he thought the KKK was “OK until I found out that they smoked pot.”
Sessions’ record speaks louder than his testimony.Read more
For the first time in his eight-year presidency, Barack Obama said no to Israel. When the Security Council voted to condemn Israel for building illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territories, the Obama administration abstained, allowing the resolution to pass.
Resolution 2334 says the settlements have “no legal validity,” calls them “a flagrant violation under international law,” and demands Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities.”
Although 2334 is consistent with prior resolutions of the council, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threw a tantrum, calling the US abstention a “declaration of war.” In light of Obama’s unwavering enabling of Israel’s illegal policies, Netanyahu was likely shocked that Obama finally said no.Read more
One of the most alarming developments in US foreign policy in 2016 was the ratcheting up of the new iteration of the Cold War. Looking back at US foreign policy in this last year of Barack Obama’s presidential tenure, other weighty developments include the ongoing proxy war in Syria, the US-supported Saudi-led bombing in Yemen, US use of drones and manned bombers in Libya, US bombing in Iraq and Afghanistan, unprecedented US military aid to Israel, US special operations in Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Yemen, US saber-rattling against China in the South China Sea, and steps toward normalization of relations with Cuba.
The intensification of Cold War dynamics became particularly apparent in March, when the US government announced it would significantly increase the number of troops stationed in Eastern Europe, a direct provocation of Russia. Reuters called the expanded positioning of NATO troops and military equipment in that region the “biggest military build-up on Russia’s borders since the Cold War.”Read more