Trump’s White House: Five takeaways from Monday

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By AFP
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US President Donald Trump on Monday attacked his second full week in the White House with a vengeance, in a combative day that culminated with the sacking of the acting attorney general after she broke rank over his controversial immigration order.

Here are five takeaways from the day’s events in Washington:

Trump has faced a firestorm of criticism since Friday, when he signed an executive order suspending the arrival of all refugees for a minimum of 120 days, Syrian refugees indefinitely and barring citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days.

With the White House facing multiple lawsuits and worldwide opprobrium over the order, the acting attorney general — a holdover from the Obama administration — whipped the rug from under her boss in a defiant parting shot Monday evening.

In a memo to Department of Justice staff, Sally Yates expressed doubts about the legality and morality of Trump’s decree, and ordered the department’s attorneys not to defend it.

Trump’s response was swift: the White House announced it was removing Yates from the job, calling her “weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration” and saying she had “betrayed the Department of Justice.”

Federal prosecutor Dana Boente will serve as acting attorney general until Trump’s nominee, Senator Jeff Sessions “is finally confirmed by the Senate, where he is being wrongly held up by Democratic senators for strictly political reasons,” it said.

Trump had begun the day with a trademark early-morning tweet barrage saying “all is going well” and lashing out at those who argued his immigration measure was rolled out too quickly.

“If the ban were announced with a one week notice, the ‘bad’ would rush into our country during that week. A lot of bad ‘dudes’ out there!” he tweeted.

He even blamed a computer outage at Delta Air Lines for the chaos that gripped major US airports over the weekend as passengers were detained or stopped for questioning and federal judges moved to halt deportations.

2. Mr Netanyahu comes to Washington

Trump will welcome Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House on February 15, the US president’s spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters.

The Republican president has moved quickly to befriend the Israeli leader, and the pair spoke by telephone on Sunday. Iran is likely to come up in their meeting.

Trump has said he plans to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — a measure that the Palestinians have fiercely condemned.

Trump has come under fire for failing to specifically mention in his Holocaust remembrance statement the six million Jews killed in the Nazi genocide.

3. New Supreme Court pick

Trump moved up his plans to reveal his nominee to fill the Supreme Court seat that has been vacant for nearly a year, since the death of conservative Antonin Scalia.

Trump will make the announcement at 8:00 pm Tuesday (0100 GMT Wednesday) at the White House — two days ahead of schedule, possibly as a means to change the headlines focused on his immigration measures.

The nine-seat court has been at eight since Scalia died in February 2016, as Republicans refused to set up a confirmation hearing for Barack Obama’s pick, Merrick Garland.

Trump signed an executive order that would impose sweeping constraints on any new US regulations, by requiring two rules be killed before any new one can be introduced and mandating zero cost impact.

The order paves the way for the fulfilment of a campaign pledge made by the CEO-in-chief.

Some critics worried that the order would impose difficult choices on federal agencies as to which rules to keep — at the expense of other equally important measures.

Barack Obama said as he left office that he would only weigh in from the political sidelines on issues relevant to America’s core values. He didn’t wait long – just 10 days – before breaking his silence.

Without mentioning Trump, Obama – via his spokesman – said he was “heartened” by protests that had taken place across the country, and rejected the notion that Trump’s immigration order was in any way associated with his own policies.

“With regard to comparisons to president Obama’s foreign policy decisions, as we’ve heard before, the president fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion,” his spokesman Kevin Lewis said in a statement.

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