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President Donald Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates on Monday night, just hours after she announced the Justice Department would not defend Trump’s executive order banning temporarily all refugees, as well as all citizens, from the seven Muslim-majority nations Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Yates had written a memo saying, “I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful.” Yates had served in the Justice Department for 27 years. Trump had asked her to serve as acting attorney general until the Senate confirmed Sen. Jeff Sessions, who is a close ally of Trump. On Monday, Connecticut Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal praised Sally Yates for speaking out.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal: “I want to salute Sally Yates, who has taken a stand based on moral and legal principle in the highest tradition of the Department of Justice, saying that these orders cannot be defended, that the rule of law and morality is more important than the politics of the moment and the impulsive edicts of a ruler who apparently fails to understand that law, or at least his administration does.”
Widespread resistance to Trump’s immigration ban continued across the U.S. and world Monday in nearly all sectors of society—from the streets to Silicon Valley to the halls of Washington. More than 200 State Department officials and diplomats have signed on to drafts of a dissent memo that condemns Trump’s executive order. One draft of the memo reads: “This ban stands in opposition to the core American and constitutional values that we, as federal employees, took an oath to uphold. … We have a special obligation to maintain an immigration system that is as free as possible from discrimination, that does not have an implied or actual religious tests, and that views individuals as individuals, not as part of stereotyped groups.” As news of the dissent memo broke Monday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer threatened State Department officials, saying they should quit their jobs if they have a problem with Trump’s “program.”
Press Secretary Sean Spicer: “We’re talking about 109 people from seven countries that the Obama administration identified. And these career bureaucrats have a problem with it? I think that they should either get with the program or they can go.”
On Monday, The Council on American-Islamic-Relations filed a federal lawsuit against Trump’s executive order, which it refers to as a “Muslim Exclusion Order.” The lawsuit argues the executive order is unconstitutional and violates the First Amendment’s religious freedom protections and the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection. This is CAIR lawyer Gadeir Abbas.
Gadeir Abbas: “President Trump’s actions are not simply words on paper. They’re the grandest monument to anti-Muslim sentiment that America has ever known. We’re not talking about the 15th Amendment or an amendment later in the teens or the 20s. We’re talking about the very first amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits a government from favoring one faith over another. And there are few times in American history where the government has officially disfavored a whole a religious faith, and this is one of those instances.”
More than 200 Jewish studies scholars across the U.S. signed on to a letter demanding lawmakers block Trump’s executive order, making a comparison between the refugee ban today and the United States’s history of refusing to allow Jewish refugees to escape to the U.S. during World War II. The letter was sent to Congress as Democratic senators tried and failed to push through legislation to rescind Trump’s executive order. Later in the day, Senate Democrats held a candlelight vigil outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., where thousands gathered to oppose Trump’s policies.
Also on Monday, the head of the African Union slammed Trump’s ban, which affects three African nations, pointing out the history of the mass kidnapping of Africans during the United States’s transatlantic slave trade.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma: “Excellencies, it is clear that globally we are entering very turbulent times. For an example, the very country to whom our people were taken as slaves during the transatlantic slave trade have now decided to ban refugees from some of our countries. What do we do about this? Indeed, this is one of the greatest challenges and tests to our unity and solidarity.”
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people protested in London and in cities across Britain Monday to denounce Trump’s immigration ban, as 1.5 million Brits have signed on to a petition demanding Britain cancel Trump’s planned state visit. This is British lawmaker Sayeeda Warsi.
Sayeeda Warsi: “There comes a moment when we have to ask our government: Where do you stand? And that’s why I’m here today, not just because I believe what Trump is doing is appalling, not just because I believe it’s counterproductive, not just because I know that it will not achieve even what he says he is trying to achieve, but because I want my government to stand up and say he is wrong.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May met with President Trump on Friday in the first visit by a head of state to the White House since Trump’s inauguration.
Former President Barack Obama also spoke out against Donald Trump and in favor of the massive protests against Trump’s immigration ban. On Monday, Obama’s spokesperson, Kevin Lewis, said, “Citizens exercising their constitutional right to assemble, organize and have their voices heard by their elected officials is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake. … The president fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.”
The stock market closed lower Monday as Trump’s immigration ban created chaos within companies. Executives at a growing number of corporations have spoken out against Trump’s immigration ban, including Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, Tesla, Airbnb, Ford and Goldman Sachs, which has increasing influence in the Trump administration with at least six top advisers and Cabinet picks—including Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon—having close ties to the financial giant. Meanwhile, thousands of people have deleted the Uber app, after the company turned off surge pricing at JFK airport Saturday in a move many saw as attempting to break the New York Taxi Workers Alliance strike on picking up travelers from JFK airport in solidarity with the massive protests that had erupted there over Trump’s immigration ban. The ban also puts at risk Boeing commercial aircraft orders from Iran and Iraq worth about $20 billion. Boeing says the orders will generate 100,000 new jobs.
On Monday, the Iraqi Parliament approved a reciprocal ban on U.S. citizens entering Iraq, although it’s not yet clear who the ban affects. The U.S. has at least 5,000 soldiers in Iraq, as well as thousands more civilian contractors. Iran’s government has also vowed to take “reciprocal measures” to ban U.S. citizens.
In Canada, more news is emerging on the massacre at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City during evening prayers on Sunday, which killed six worshipers and wounded eight others. Multiple media outlets originally reported that multiple gunmen were behind the attack. In fact, there was only one gunman behind the attack: white nationalist Alexandre Bissonnette. He is well known online as a supporter of Donald Trump and far-right wing French politician Marine Le Pen, whose visit to Quebec City last year appears to have inspired him to begin voicing extremist anti-refugee, anti-immigrant and anti-woman views. He was charged Monday with six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder. The information about Bissonnette comes after multiple news outlets falsely reported the attack was inspired not by white nationalism but by Muslim extremism, claiming falsely one of the shooters was a Muslim Moroccan man. In fact, this man was not a shooter but was one of the worshipers at the center who called 911 during the attack. On Monday night, mourners had a vigil outside the Islamic Cultural Centre.
Mourner: “It’s very difficult for me and for all the other persons, Muslim or not Muslim. It’s very difficult, because if you can kill a person, you are not human. You don’t have humanity in your heart. So, it’s very difficult.”
A former top aide to Donald Trump says the president will “definitely” pull out of the Paris climate deal. Myron Ebell, who led Trump’s transition efforts for the Environmental Protection Agency, also said Monday that climate and environmental activists are “the greatest threat to freedom and prosperity in the modern world.”
In news on Trump’s Cabinet nominations, Senate lawmakers voted to overcome a Democratic filibuster and advance the nomination of longtime ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson for secretary of state. The 56-43 vote came after 30 hours of debate, during which Senate Democrats tried to delay Tillerson’s advancement. All Republican senators and three Senate Democrats—North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Virginia’s Mark Warner—voted to support Tillerson’s advancement. The vote on Tillerson’s actual confirmation is expected later today or Wednesday.
Senate committees are also expected to vote today on Jeff Sessions for attorney general, Betsy DeVos for education secretary, Rick Perry to head the Energy Department, Ryan Zinke to head the Interior Department and Tom Price to head the Department of Health and Human Services. Price has been a major proponent of the Republicans’ plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Yesterday, hundreds of medical students staged a die-in outside Fox News in New York City to protest the repeal of Obamacare.
Trump says he’ll announce his pick to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court later today. There appears to be three front-running candidates: Judge Neil Gorsuch, Judge Thomas Hardiman and Judge William Pryor. Pryor is a fierce opponent of abortion who has called Roe v. Wade the “worst abomination of constitutional law in our history.” Hardiman serves on the same court as Trump’s sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry. He’s a proponent of expanding access to guns in the U.S., and he’s ruled against people arguing their rights were violated after they were strip-searched in a New Jersey jail. Neil Gorsuch ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby in the case over whether the company can refuse to provide birth control coverage to employees as required by Obamacare. Senate Democrats have vowed to filibuster the court nomination regardless of who Trump picks. The filibuster would mark the second time in modern U.S. history that the Senate has launched a filibuster against a Supreme Court nominee.
Trump has appointed Thomas Homan to be the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Homan is a former NYPD officer and Border Patrol agent. Since 2013, he’s served as ICE’s executive associate director of enforcement and removal operations. In 2016, The Washington Post profiled Homan, with a lede that read: “Thomas Homan deports people. And he’s really good at it.” The Washington Post also reported Monday that Jon Feere is slated to join the Department of Homeland Security. Feere is a longtime employee of the leading anti-immigrant think tank the Center for Immigration Studies.
The African Union has agreed to readmit Morocco as a full member of the union—33 years after Morocco quit the bloc over the status of Morocco-occupied Western Sahara. On Monday, 39 out of 54 states approved Morocco’s return to the union—even though Morocco’s occupation continues. Western Sahara has been occupied for 41 years. Many consider it to be Africa’s last colony.
Prosecutors have dropped felony rioting charges against four of the journalists who were arrested during street protests against Trump’s inauguration on January 20: journalists Evan Engel, Matt Hopard, John Keller and Alexander Rubinstein. But journalists Aaron Cantu and Shay Horse are still facing felony charges. Well over 200 demonstrators are also facing the charges, which carry a maximum 10-year prison sentence.
And the Boy Scouts of America has announced the organization will now accept all boys into the program, including transgender boys, regardless of what gender is marked on a child’s birth certificate. In announcing the shift, Boy Scouts Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh said, “Communities and state laws are now interpreting gender identity differently than society did in the past.” Now parents simply have to mark their child’s gender on the Boy Scouts application in order for a boy to be accepted.