blog

February 26, 2018

Trump Sets Deadly Precedent by Hiding Rationale for Bombing Syria

Pressure is mounting as the Trump administration continues to refuse to reveal its legal justification for bombing Syria in April 2017, despite increased scrutiny from Democratic senators and a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) wrote a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on February 8, 2018, requesting a copy of the State Department memo containing the Trump administration’s legal justification for the US attack against Syria on April 6, 2017, when it bombed the Shayrat military airbase with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles.

At the time of the bombing, Trump suggested that he ordered the launching of the missiles in retaliation for a sarin gas attack at Khan Sheikhoun, allegedly ordered by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Syrian government, however, denied responsibility for the chemical attack. Meanwhile, Defense Secretary James Mattis admitted earlier this month he has “no evidence” Assad ordered the use of sarin gas against his own people.Read more

February 21, 2018

Trump Creates, Then Exacerbates, Crisis for Palestinian Refugees

One of the most consequential actions Donald Trump took during the first year of his presidency was to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017. When the Palestinians predictably responded by pulling out of the US-led “peace process,” Trump retaliated by cutting US financial support to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) by more than 50 percent.

“A Death Sentence” for Gazan Refugees

The US cutback in aid to UNRWA critically threatens the access of Palestinian refugees to food, health care and education.

In Gaza, 1.3 million Palestinian refugees, who comprise 70 percent of Gaza’s population, depend on UNRWA for food assistance. The refugee crisis was aggravated by Israel’s 2014 massacre in Gaza.Read more

February 10, 2018

Pentagon to Allow Nuclear Responses to Non-Nuclear Attacks

Amid the media frenzy surrounding the Nunes-Trump memo, the Pentagon officially released its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) last week. The NPR calls for the development of leaner, meaner nuclear weapons and lowers the threshold for the use of nukes. Donald Trump must be thrilled. During the presidential campaign, he questioned a senior foreign policy adviser about nuclear weapons three times during a briefing, asking, “If we had them why can’t we use them?”

The NPR calls for “low-yield” nuclear weapons on submarine-launched ballistic missiles — weapons that could cause as much damage as the bombs the United States dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

For the first time, the new NPR states that the United States could use nuclear weapons in response to non-nuclear attacks, including cyberattacks, in “extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States, its allies and partners.” This new strategy opens the door to first-use of nuclear weapons, which is prohibited under international law.Read more

February 4, 2018

Sometimes, White House Staff Have a Legal Duty to Disobey the President

Last June, Donald Trump ordered White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, according to the New York Times. McGahn threatened to resign rather than fire Mueller, so Trump backed down.

Trump had given McGahn an illegal order. The president was asking the White House Counsel to conspire with him to obstruct justice. McGahn knew he had a legal duty to refuse an illegal order, even if it was the president doing the ordering. McGahn was “concerned that firing the special counsel would incite more questions about whether the White House was trying to obstruct the Russia investigation,” according to the Times.Read more

January 24, 2018

Congress’s Ratification of Trump’s Spying Power Is a Direct Threat to Our Privacy

“Today, the United States Congress struck a significant blow against the basic human right to read, write, learn, and associate free of government’s prying eyes,” Electronic Frontier Foundation Executive Director Cindy Cohn wrote. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Reauthorization Act of 2017, which Congress passed on January 19, poses a serious threat to the privacy of our internet communications.

Congress voted to extend Section 702 of FISA, with minimal changes, for six years. It permits the National Security Agency (NSA) to collect email and texts of foreigners abroad without a warrant, and also allows spying on Americans who communicate with people outside the United States. For example, the NSA can intercept the communications of a US citizen or permanent resident who attends an international conference on human rights or marches against climate change in another country.Read more

January 18, 2018

We Cannot Expect a President With Racism “in His DNA” to Save DACA

After Donald Trump called Haiti and African nations “shithole countries” and exclaimed, “We should have more people from Norway,” Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) noted that being a racist “must be in his DNA, in his makeup.” Trump’s offensive characterization of Haitians and the entire continent of Africa, the latest in his pattern and practice of racist epithets, imperils legal protection for the 800,000 “Dreamers” who have been able to remain in the United States under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

On September 5, 2017, Trump rescinded the DACA program, effective March 5, 2018. Attorney General Jeff Sessions incorrectly declared that Barack Obama had overstepped his legal authority when he established DACA, as I explained previously.

Indeed, US District Judge William Alsup disagreed with Sessions and ordered the Trump administration to shield existing DACA enrollees from deportation until the courts could rule on the legal challenges to the program. Alsup concluded that plaintiffs contesting the rescission of DACA would likely prevail on the merits of their constitutional and statutory claims.Read more

January 10, 2018

Trump’s Nuclear Threat Warrants Removal From Office

Donald Trump’s veiled threat to use nuclear weapons against North Korea is not only horrifying, but also illegal. It warrants his removal from office.

On New Year’s Day, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un asserted, “The entire area of the US mainland is within our nuclear strike range. The United States can never start a war against me and our country,” adding, “The United States should know that the button for nuclear weapons is on my table.” Kim clarified that he would not use those weapons except in response to aggression.

Not to be outdone by Kim, Trump tweeted in response, “I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”Read more

December 31, 2017

Trump’s “America First” Security Strategy Imperils the US

Last week, with great fanfare, Donald Trump rolled out his new National Security Strategy (NSS). Its guiding theme is “America First.” An analysis of the 55-page document, however, reveals a program that renders the United States more unpopular and vulnerable to external threats.

Trump’s plan takes Barack Obama’s policy of “American exceptionalism” to a new level. In his speech accompanying the NSS’s release, Trump stated, “America has been among the greatest forces for peace and justice in the history of the world.”

Yet Trump has not only continued but also escalated the Bush-Obama wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, dropped Tomahawk missiles on Syria, threatened North Korea and Iran, intensified airstrikes against Muslim countries, and fanned the flames of conflict in the Middle East.Read more

December 21, 2017

Trump Apologists Are Gunning for Mueller

As special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation moves closer to Donald Trump, there is a concerted effort by the president’s apologists to shut it down. Commentators on Fox News and Republican Congress members are attacking Mueller, causing speculation that the special counsel’s days are numbered.

Since his investigation began in May, Mueller has already obtained two indictments and two guilty pleas. Most recently, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of lying to the FBI. Although he could have been charged with more serious crimes, Flynn secured the deal by promising to cooperate with prosecutors and provide evidence against other, as yet unnamed, individuals. Flynn’s guilty plea brings Mueller’s investigation into the White House.Read more

December 14, 2017

Israel and US Hide Names of Companies Supporting Israeli Settlements

In December 2016 the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution reaffirming that Israel’s Jewish settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) are illegal and calling on Israel to stop settlement activities in the OPT. 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.”

Nine months earlier, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), in Resolution 31/36, had ordered the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to “produce a database of all business enterprises” that “directly and indirectly, enabled, facilitated and profited from the construction and growth of the settlements.”

The database was scheduled for release in December 2017. Meanwhile, the Israeli and US governments have been trying to prevent that list — which reportedly includes at least 150 local and international companies — from becoming public. “We will do everything we can to ensure that this list does not see the light of day,” Israel’s UN ambassador Danny Danon told The Associated Press. US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said, “We just view that type of blacklist as counterproductive.”Read more