Trump turns into schoolyard bully

The early days of the Trump presidency were always going to be difficult.

But this first week has seen authoritarian bullying on an unexpected level with a series of Executive orders.

He has withdrawn the USA from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, once viewed as the crown jewel of Barack Obama’s international trade policy.

The deal was never approved by Congress so it had yet to go into effect in the US.
Therefore the formal “withdrawal” is more akin to a decision on the part of the US to end ongoing international negotiations and let the deal wither and die.

One likely impact is that China will seek to replace itself in the deal or add TPP nations to its own free trade negotiations, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), excluding the US.

He has made securing the border with Mexico a priority. One order declares that the US will create “a contiguous, physical wall or other similarly secure, contiguous, and impassable physical barrier”.

The second order pledges to hire 10,000 more immigration officers, and to revoke federal grant money from so-called “sanctuary cities” which refuse to deport undocumented immigrants.

It remains to be seen how Mr Trump will pay for the wall. Construction of the wall will cost billions of dollars – money that Congress will need to approve.

On his second full working day, the president signed two orders to advance construction of two controversial pipelines – the Keystone XL and Dakota Access.

Keystone, a 1,179-mile (1,897km) pipeline running from Canada to US refineries in the Gulf Coast, was halted by President Barack Obama in 2015 due to concerns over the message it would send about climate change.

The second pipeline was halted last year as the Army looked at other routes, amid huge protests by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe at a North Dakota site.

In one of his first actions as president, Mr Trump issued a multi-paragraph directive to the Department of Health and Human Services and other federal agencies involved in managing the nation’s healthcare system. The order states that agencies must “waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay” any portions of the Affordable Care Act that creates financial burden on states, individuals or healthcare providers.

Although the order technically does not authorise any powers the executive agencies do not already have, it’s viewed as a clear signal that the Trump administration will be rolling back Obama-era healthcare regulations wherever possible.

Trump also re-instated a ban on international abortion counselling. What’s called the Mexico City policy, first implemented in 1984 under Republican President Ronald Reagan, prevents foreign non-governmental organisations that receive any US cash from “providing counselling or referrals for abortion or advocating for access to abortion services in their country”, even if they do so with other funding.

Since its inception every Democratic president has rescinded the measure, and every Republican has brought it back.

On Mr Trump’s first full workday in the White House he issued a directive to federal agencies to halt any new government hiring. He told reporters who had gathered for the signing that the freeze would not affect military spending.

The directive is part of Mr Trump’s effort to reduce government debts and decrease the size of the federal workforce.

Finally and most alarmingly of all President Trump’s sweeping ban, announced on Friday, on people seeking refuge in the United States and visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries has caused confusion and panic among travelers on Saturday, with some turned back from U.S.-bound flights.

Immigration lawyers in New York sued to block the order, saying numerous people have already been unlawfully detained.

The president put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily barred travelers from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries. He said the moves would protect Americans from terrorism, in a swift and stern delivery on a campaign promise.

The bans affects travelers with passports from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Although he mentioned 9/11 three times in his speech none of the hijackers came from these seven countries.

Not Saudi Arabia, Indonesia or other Muslim nations.

The action prompted fury from Arab travelers in the Middle East and North Africa who said it was humiliating and discriminatory. It drew widespread criticism from U.S. Western allies including France and Germany, Arab-American groups and human rights organizations.

Iran condemned the order as an “open affront against the Muslim world and the Iranian nation” and vowed to retaliate. Of the seven countries targeted, Iran sends the most visitors to the United States each year – around 35,000 in 2015, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

The ban also extends to green card holders who are authorized to live and work in the United States, according to Gillian Christensen, a Homeland Security spokeswoman.

It was unclear how many green card holders would be affected, but exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis.

Legal residents of the United States may now be unable to return to the United States or could be separated from family members trapped abroad. Immigration lawyers worked through the night to help stranded travelers and enforcement at entry points was uneven.

But Air Canada has stopped carrying passport holders from these seven countries into the USA and there are bans also at KLM, Emirates and others.

In Cairo, five Iraqi passengers and one Yemeni were barred from boarding an EgyptAir flight to New York on Saturday, sources at Cairo airport said. Dutch airline KLM said on Saturday it had refused carriage to the United States to seven passengers from predominately Muslim countries.

At least three lawyers from the International Refugee Assistance Project were at the arrivals lounge at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport’s Terminal 4, buried in their laptops and conference calls, photocopies of individuals’ U.S. visas on hand.

Hats off to them for their work.

Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway reaffirmed the president’s decision in a Twitter post on Saturday.

“@POTUS is a man of action and impact. Promises made, promises kept. Shock to the system. And he’s just getting started,” she tweeted.

Make America great again is quickly turning into make America small, bigoted and fearful.

Criticism for his “muslim ban” came in from all quarters including Madeline Albright, the former US secretary of state, Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani campaigner for girls’ education and Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg.

A week of actions that have only succeeded in making America more divided, more divisive and more polarised.

The immigration order seems either truly badly thought out of to be deliberately extreme.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May who met with President Trump on Thursday refused to condemn Trump refugee ban when pressed on the issue by journalists at a joint press conference.

More here:

Donald Trump’s Un-American Refugee Policy New York Times

Trump’s refugee scare-mongering has no basis in reality Globe and Mail

Wonder and Worry, as a Syrian Child Transforms New York Times

Full Executive Order Text: Trump’s Action Limiting Refugees Into the U.S. New York Times

How Trump’s Executive Orders Could Set America Back 70 Years The Atlantic




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