TrumpWatch: Week 2 – Trump ignores the law, the constitution, and reality

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In our regular TrumpWatch section, we look back at another week of Donald Trump’s America.

Here’s how his second week went.

28 January – The ‘Muslim ban’

  • Trump enacted the executive order which became known as the ‘Muslim ban’ on Friday 27 January. The following day, travellers were experiencing the full effects. The Trump Administration claims it was designed to prevent terrorists entering the US. In reality, it blocked nationals of countries from which no terrorists had originated. It also allowed people to enter from countries where terrorists had originated. Countries which Trump’s business empire has links to. The order affected green-card holders, translators who aided the US military, children, and the families of people who voted for Trump.
  • Theresa May was on a state visit with Trump on 27 January. She later claimed he gave her no advance notice of the executive order. She did say that she “does not agree” with the order, but came under fire for not cancelling Trump’s upcoming state visit.
  • A full seat on the National Security Council was given to Steve Bannon – Trump’s chief strategist and the former executive chair of Breitbart News. Political advisers are usually kept off the council so as to avoid looking like matters of security are politicised. The joint chiefs of staff and director of national intelligence, meanwhile, had their positions downgraded.

29 January – Fallout

  • It emerged that German Chancellor Angela Merkel had explained the Geneva Convention to Trump over the phone. She was critical of the Muslim ban. As were Canada’s Justin Trudeau and France’s Francois Hollande.
  • Trump defended his order on Twitter. Particularly against Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. The pair had made a joint statement, warning: “Such a hasty process risks harmful results. We fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism.”
  • Trump insisted the executive order wasn’t a Muslim ban. But a statement from Rudy Giuliani, the White House cybersecurity adviser, suggested that Trump had approached him on how to legally implement a “Muslim ban”:

  • Several judges blocked Trump’s executive order. But border agents defied the courts and upheld the order anyway. Commentators pointed out that this situation was unprecedented, and could lead the US into a constitutional crisis.

30 January – Retaliation

  • Trump fired his acting attorney general, Sally Q. Yates. The attorney general is the chief lawyer of the US government. Their responsibility is to uphold the law rather than the orders of the administration. Which is why Yates issued a statement instructing the justice department not to defend the executive order.
  • The Financial Times published an article on what Trump means for Brexit. It wrote: “The decision to exit the EU leaves Britain much more dependent on the US, just at a time when America has elected an unstable president opposed to most of the central propositions on which UK foreign policy is based.”
  • Trump defended the order again on Twitter, himself calling it a “ban”.
  • Barack Obama denied the comparison between Trump’s order and a policy from 2011. He also encouraged the protests against the order.
  • A petition to prevent Trump visiting the UK for a state visit reached over a million signatures.

31 January – Confusion

  • Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer claimed there was no ‘ban’. Journalists pointed out that President Trump himself referred to the measure as a ban on Twitter.
  • Trump picked Neil Gorsuch as his nomination for the Supreme Court – the highest federal court in the US. This would be a lifelong appointment. There is currently a seat open because Antonin Scalia died in February 2016. The Republican Senate blocked President Obama from replacing him with another judge.

1 February – Threats

  • The Daily Mail reported that Supreme Court nominee Gorsuch founded a “Fascism Forever” club at his prep school. Snopes have since discredited this.
  • New revelations suggested that Trump had told Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in a phone call: “I don’t need Mexicans. I don’t need Mexico. We’re going to build the wall. And you’re going to pay whether you like it or not.” Trump also reportedly insisted that, if Mexico couldn’t deal effectively with its drug cartels, he “may have to send troops to assume this task”.
  • Rex Tillerson was confirmed as Secretary of State – a position mainly concerned with foreign policy. There was record opposition to his appointment. He is a former CEO of ExxonMobil and has close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  • Trump’s administration said it was putting Iran “on notice” for a recent ballistic-missile launch.

2 February – More confusion

  • News leaked about a phone conversation Trump had held with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. During the call, Trump allegedly shouted at Turnbull about their refugee arrangement. He also reportedly “abruptly ended” the call 25 minutes into a planned hour-long conversation.
  • Iran responded to the Trump Administration’s “on notice” comment by saying it was not the first time an “inexperienced person has threatened” them.
  • Sean Spicer claimed an Iranian ship had attacked a US Navy vessel. In reality, suspected Houthi rebels attacked a Saudi frigate off the coast of Yemen.

3 February – Alt-facts

  • Trump’s Counselor Kellyanne Conway referenced “the Bowling Green massacre” while defending Trump’s travel ban. She said “most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered”. Commentators quickly pointed out that this is because the event never took place. Conway was the campaign manager for part of Trump’s presidential campaign. She is also the person who coined the term “alternative facts” in defence of what others described as outright lies.

Not only was Trump’s second week dominated by the Muslim ban and its fallout. It was also dominated by an apparent lack of regard for US law, the US constitution, and reality in general.

Read on...

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