Breaking: Acting Attorney General Yates Won’t Defend Trump’s Travel Ban

Saying she is not sure Trump’s executive order banning entry to the U.S. by certain immigrants is legal, acting Attorney General Sally Yates sent a letter Monday to the Department of Justice, instructing them not to defend the order in court.

From the Hill:

“Consequently, for as long as I am the Acting Attorney General, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of the Executive Order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so,” she said in the letter.

“My responsibility is to ensure that the position of the Department of Justice is not only legally defensible, but is informed by our best view of what the law is after consideration of all the facts. In addition, I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right. At present, 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.”

A federal judge out of New York granted an injunction against certain parts of the order, after things went sideways at airports around the country on Saturday.

The Trump administration is expected to fight that decision in court.

The move by Yates could very well be for a partisan show. She’s a holdover from the Obama administration, and the past eight years has shown just how politicized the Justice Department has become, according to Stephen Miller, senior adviser to the president.

She may have only days to stall.

Trump’s pick for attorney general, Senator Jeff Sessions, could soon be confirmed. When that happens, he’s not likely to go against his boss in his first days on the job.

There’s also the chance of Trump simply replacing Yates with someone else in the department, who would be more willing to defend the order.

At most, this is a hollow gesture, but it likely foreshadows the partisan battles that await President Trump in the future.

BREAKING: A NY Federal Judge Blocks Trump’s Immigration Order

In what is probably the first roadblock of President Trump’s whirlwind week of executive orders, a federal judge has halted Trump’s order to ban immigrants from Muslim nations from entering the U.S.

The court ruled on a habeas corpus petition filed by the ACLU on behalf of two Iraqi men who were detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Friday after Trump’s ban.

Since then both men, Hameed Khalid Darweesh and Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshaw, have reportedly been granted entry to the U.S.

The order Trump signed on Friday bars refugees from Syria, for an indefinite period, while stopping the resettlement of all refugees for four months, in order to allow the administration to review the vetting process.

The secretary of State, secretary of Homeland Security, and Director of National Intelligence must approve of the vetting before admission resumes.

The order also denies entry for 90 days for individuals from seven predominantly Muslims countries: Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Libya and Yemen.

Protests broke out Saturday at JFK Airport, Terminal #4, as citizens gathered to express their outrage over Trump’s Executive Order.

Can Trump Make Priority Status Happen for Christian Refugees?

If he carries through with this, it will go a long way towards improving my outlook for a Trump presidency.

This needs to happen, and should have been the policy, all along.

President Trump sat down to speak with the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody on Friday, when the topic of the Syrian refugee program was brought up.

According to Trump’s word, Christians will be given priority status when seeking asylum.

“We are going to help them. They’ve been horribly treated,” Trump told the Christian Broadcasting Network in an interview set to air Sunday.

Upon being asked if he sees persecuted Christians “as kind of a priority” when it comes to granting non-citizens refugee status, Trump told Brady: “Yes.”

Was Trump simply pandering to the CBN crowd?

As it is with most politicians, that’s always a possibility.

Still, there’s merit to the concerns Trump raised. Christians in the Muslim-dominated territories that have been overrun with ISIS and other Islamic groups face unusually cruel treatment.

Trump was due to sign an executive order today, which would have closed down the Syrian refugee program, as well as barring immigrants from other Muslim countries.

“The secretaries of state and homeland security, as appropriate, shall cease refugee processing of and the admittance of nationals of Syria as refugees until such time as I have determined that sufficient changes have been made to the [U.S. Refugee Admittance Program] to ensure its alignment with the national interest,” read a draft of the order obtained by the Washington Examiner earlier this week.

The big hurdle Trump and the administration will likely face, should they try and filter in Christians from these nations will come from those who will push back against what they call a “religious test” to gain entrance into the nation.

Circumstances being what they are, however, it would seem a religious test is exactly what is needed in this case.

Trump’s DHS Halts Refugee Interviews

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has decided to suspend foreign trips by its personnel to interview refugee applicants since President Trump is expected to soon issue an executive order relating to the refugee admittance process.

As previously reported, Trump is indeed preparing an order which will address entry into the United States by refugees.  He is likely to suspend refugee admissions for 120 days to provide time for the Secretary of State to review and presumably update the procedures governing refugee admittance into this country.  After that review is complete, then refugee admissions will continue, and the DHS can proceed with its interviews of applicants.

Thus, within the context of Trump’s expected order, it seems prudent for the DHS to halt trips overseas to interview refugees until the new procedures are in place.  It makes no sense to interview applicants under the current procedures when those procedures will soon change and the applicants would then likely need to be re-vetted under them.

Many will continue to characterize Trump’s decision as some sort of hard-hearted attempt by him to “ban Muslims.”  This is unfortunate, since Trump has softened his campaign rhetoric and appears to be seeking to create an orderly process by which refugees can be welcomed into the U.S. while also keeping American citizens secure.  As President, he must balance many competing interests and appears to be making a sincere effort at doing so.

Trump to Halt and Review Entry Procedures from Middle East

In a move sure to be both praised and vilified, President Trump is ready to issue an executive order which will temporarily deny entry into the U.S. for people from several countries in the Middle East while also setting up a process to more carefully vet potential entrants in the future.  The immediate list of affection countries consists of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen; more could be added later.

The executive order will address two main areas:

1- Admittance to the United States by foreign nationals from the listed countries

2- Refugees applying for entry into the U.S. who are coming from the listed countries

I’ve summarized the pertinent points of each area below.

  1. Regarding foreign nationals, the order provides for the following:
  • A halt on entry from the listed countries begins 30 days after the order is issued (see update from 29 January below).
  • During that 30 days, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Secretary of State, and the Director of National Intelligence are “to conduct a review to determine the information needed from any country to verify the identities of those looking to enter, and to make sure they are not a security or public-safety threat.”
  • For those countries which do not yet supply the information required, 60 days will be given for them to do so.
  • Any country which does not supply the needed information by the end of the deadline will have its nationals barred from entry into the U.S. until it complies
  • It is expected that after a process is put in place to consistently vet potential entrants that entry will be re-opened to nationals from the listed countries.

2.  Regarding refugees, the order provides for the following:

  • Admission of all refugees is suspended for 120 days.
  • During that 120 days, “the Secretary of State is instructed to review refugee application procedures.”
  • Religious minorities facing persecution in their home countries will have their applications for asylum prioritized (potentially still being admitted during the 120 day freeze).
  • All Syrian refugees will be denied entry “until Trump has determined that necessary changes have been made to the refugee admissions program.”

The intent of these admission halts, then, is to give the relevant U.S. agencies time to come up with procedures for more carefully vetting entrants into the U.S. by people coming from war-torn countries which are known to contain militants and terrorists.  The fact that these countries are racked by war should be an indication that allowing unfettered admission into the U.S. by those coming from these areas would be unwise.

I am sure, however, that the order will be characterized as a “ban,” particularly a “Muslim ban,” by those opposed to it.  Reading the actual points of the order, though, it becomes apparent that the intent is simply to better protect American citizens, while still allowing people from the listed countries entry into the U.S. after being properly vetted.  Within the context of Trump’s other executive orders in the past few days, it is apparent that he is following through on his campaign promises to better improve U.S. border control and security.


Update on 29 January:

The original article was written before Trump issued the order, based on information about its expected contents.  On Friday (27 January), Trump signed the order which differs somewhat from what was expected.  The major change is that there is now no 30 day interim period prior to banning entry by foreign nationals from the listed countries (i.e. the first bullet point under section 1 above).  Instead, the ban began immediately after Trump issued the order and extends for 90 days.  This has caused many problems for people who were in transit to the United States at the time the order was issued.  The original planned 30 day interim would have caused far less havoc and been more advisable.

Kerry To Trump: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

In an interview on Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry commented that it was “inappropriate for a president-elect of the United States to be stepping into the politics of other countries in a quite direct manner,” referring to President-elect Trump’s comments published in an interview with the German newspaper Bild.

Kerry criticized Trump for his assertion that the German government had made a mistake in admitting thousands of “illegals” into their country.  Trump was referring to the refugees from Syria who have been pouring into Germany and causing social and political upheaval.

Kerry suggested that Trump should not have commented on German policies, and then proceeded to do the same, noting that he thought the German government showed “great courage” in accepting the Syrian refugees.

Kerry was silent on past Obama-administration actions in Syria that he championed as Secretary-of-State and which have led to the current refugee crisis.

Trump’s Skittles Analogy Is Wrong, But So Are Liberals Who Attack It

“What drives Ahmad Khan Rahami to try to commit mass murder? The answer does not lie in probability. It lies in ideology.”

Pro-Hillary forces are so desperate to find something to pin on the Trump campaign that they resorted to attacking Donald Trump Jr.’s Skittles analogy to the Syrian refugee problem. Actually, Trump’s Skittles analogy and the fake outrage manufactured by liberals in response to it are both wrong.

Wrigley, the candy’s maker, secretly enjoyed the exposure, but publicly disclaimed the comparison.

“Skittles are candy. Refugees are people. We don’t feel it’s an appropriate analogy,” Vice President of Corporate Affairs Denise Young said in the statement. “We will respectfully refrain from further commentary as anything we say could be misinterpreted as marketing.”

No irony there. Skittles aren’t rainbows either, and everything a candy seller could ever say about their product is subject to being interpreted as marketing.

The Washington Post decided to pursue the matter from a purely mathematical angle, using assumptions and suspect math that would make any scientist blush with embarrassment.

So how many handfuls could I grab before I got one that’s poisoned?

Well, it could be one, of course, if the poisoned ones are distributed evenly through the giant pool-and-a-half of Skittles. But the odds say something different. If there is one poisoned Skittle in 3.64 billion, that means I could extract quite a few handfuls before I was likely to pick out a poisoned one.

Specifically, about 68.7 million handfuls. Let’s say it takes me one minute to grab a handful and eat them. I would hit a poisoned Skittle, on average, every 130 years. I would also be consuming the equivalent of a package of Skittles every minute, which is about 330,000 calories a day.

The one in 3.64 billion number is based on a per capita calculation on the odds of being killed by a refugee. There are two major problems with this calculation, which comes from a Cato Institute analysis. The first problem is the numbers are based on past data. We can make the argument that Syrian refugees are safe in any country on earth based on past data, if we go back far enough.

This analysis focuses on the 41-year period from January 1, 1975, to December 31, 2015, because it includes large waves of Cuban and Vietnamese refugees that posed a terrorism risk at the beginning of the time period and book-ends with the San Bernardino terrorist attack. It identifies foreign-born terrorists who were convicted of planning or committing a terrorist attack on U.S. soil and links them with the specific visa they were first issued as well as the number of people they individually murdered, if any, in their attacks.

C’mon, man. What do refugees in the Mariel boat lift have to do with Syrians fleeing a war zone, or radicalized ISIS cells?

The second problem is that the analysis only deals with foreign-born terrorists. What about American-born terrorists like Omar Mateen? The danger of radicalization is not simply a math problem dealing with who are born overseas. It’s an ideology problem with a group that refuses to be assimilated (or has not yet begun the process) into American ideals; whose members are subject to radicalization, training, and integration into a terrorist infrastructure.

In political-military terms, this is called a “fifth column.”

WaPo’s math simply doesn’t work out. Terror is not some cold statistic, it’s fear. There are certain parts of Atlanta or even Macon, Georgia that I wouldn’t venture into at night without a solid reason and destination in mind. My odds of being randomly shot there aren’t very high, but my presence exudes a sense of “he doesn’t belong here,” increasing probability beyond simple math.

Syrian refugees deserve a life better than starvation, abuse, and war. But that doesn’t mean they are safe to harbor without careful consideration given to who is allowed in and what they believe. Even with this “quality control” (borrowing WaPo’s analogy to candy), the poison is not in just one Skittle.

As my colleague Aaron Blake notes, there’s another layer of complexity. The 200 million Skittles a day that end up in the pool have all passed through Wrigley’s stringent quality control system. To continue the analogy in an increasingly awkward way, the United States already screens refugees that arrive in the United States through a multilevel process — the equivalent, I guess, of quality testing Skittles before you take them out of the pool.

Here I have to admit that Donald Trump, Jr.’s Skittles analogy breaks down. Quality control would account for filtering poison Skittles, if they could be detected. The Syrian problem isn’t really one of finding the poison Skittle in a bowl, because all the Skittles are subject to becoming poison.

Here’s a more appropriate analogy; one I’ve heard preached at church for years. I’m baking a batch of brownies, but I put a half teaspoon of dog poop into the batter. It’s such a small amount for two big trays of brownies that you’d never know it’s there. You can’t smell or taste it. But I’m just letting you know I put the dog poop in the brownies. Would you eat them?

Pardon the disgusting imagery, but think about it that way. There’s no way to know whether each individual refugee is completely immune to radicalization, but to a varying degree, they’re all slightly tainted with the same poison. On the surface, this would seem like it’s racism, pure and simple, but it’s not.

Some trays of brownies don’t have any dog poop in the batter, but some do. To figure out which is which, the ingredients themselves must be examined. In the case of Skittles, it’s not the individual Skittles which are poisoned, but the ingredients of a particular batch, or color dye, or process may inject poison. The poison may be added after the Skittles are produced. It may be introduced after you open the package.

The Syrian problem is much more complex than a bowl of Skittles, but the error isn’t in overestimating the danger by applying one-in-three-billion probabilities, it’s by underestimating the danger by refusing to recognize the pervasive and attractive influence of a world view in diametric opposition to America–and therefore Americans.

Both Trump’s Skittles analogy and WaPo’s response are wrong. What drives Ahmad Khan Rahami to try to commit mass murder? The answer does not lie in probability. It lies in ideology.