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History > 2017 > USA > Politics > White House > President Trump (I)




The Results Are In

Patrick Chappatte        NYT        NOV. 9, 2016
















Trump’s Travel Ban

to Be Replaced

by Restrictions Tailored

to Certain Countries


SEPT. 22, 2017

The New York Times




WASHINGTON — President Trump is replacing his ban on travelers from six majority-Muslim countries with severe restrictions on visitors from nations he has determined do too little to protect against terrorists and criminals coming into the United States, officials said on Friday.

The new travel restrictions could include indefinite bans on entry until vetting procedures and security cooperation improves, officials said. They will go into effect as soon as Sunday, after the conclusion of a 90-day policy review undertaken as part of the administration’s original travel ban.

Officials said Mr. Trump will soon announce the list of countries subject to the travel restrictions. They declined to say whether the list would include all six countries from which travel was temporarily banned by a revised executive order in March: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The president hinted that the changes were coming in a tweet after a crude bomb exploded on a London Underground train last week: “The travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific,” Mr. Trump wrote. Officials said Mr. Trump was given a “decision brief” on the travel ban by senior officials during a meeting Friday at the president’s Bedminster club.

The announcement is the culmination of the biggest legal challenge to Mr. Trump’s presidential authority since he took office. It came just over two weeks before the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in lawsuits that claim Mr. Trump exceeded his authority and defied the constitution by banning entry from the six countries.

“We need to know who is coming into our country. We should be able to validate their identities,” said Miles Taylor, the counselor to the secretary of homeland security. He said the new restrictions represent a significant increase in toughening “national security standards and protecting the homeland.”

The administration’s critics expressed deep reservations about the new restrictions and left open the possibility that they will file additional legal challenges once the list of countries is revealed.

“We tend to look at anything coming out of this White House with a great deal of skepticism,” said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “While it has been clear that a neutral vetting system across the board needs to be looked at on its merits, this seems to be a third rescue of the failed Muslim ban.”

In stark contrast to the original travel ban, which was implemented with virtually no notice only days after Mr. Trump took office, officials said the new travel restrictions were developed after intense negotiations with security officials in countries around the world.

Those officials were given standards they must meet in order to avoid travel restrictions, including the ability to verify the identity of a traveler, communicate electronic passport information, use biometric devices and share information about terrorist and criminal networks with the United States.

Countries that did not meet those standards as of mid-July were given 50 days to comply or face the threat of severe travel restrictions, officials said.

“It was crystal clear,” Mr. Taylor told reporters on Friday. To countries who failed to meet or accept the new requirements, Mr. Taylor said, the message from American diplomats was blunt: “You will face potential consequences from the United States.”

In the end, officials said that some of those countries added measures to improve security for passports and to better identify potential terrorist threats. They will not face additional travel restrictions. But other countries either could not meet the tougher vetting standards or willfully refused to engage with the United States government.

People in the countries that will be identified by Mr. Trump will soon face new travel restrictions, officials said.

“The Trump administration will ensure that the people who travel to the United States are properly vetted and those that don’t belong here aren’t allowed to enter,” said Jonathan Hoffman, the assistant secretary of homeland security for public affairs.

Mr. Trump’s original ban blocked all travel to the United States by refugees as well as nationals of seven countries, including Iraq, which was later deemed to have improved its screening of potential travelers and was taken off the banned list.

The ban caused chaos at airports around the country and prompted a torrent of criticism from immigrant rights activists, lawmakers in both parties, business executives, academic leaders and diplomats from around the world.

A furious legal assault on the president’s travel ban delayed its implementation for months, as federal judges agreed with immigrant rights groups that the original ban unconstitutionally targeted a particular religion or exceeded the president’s statutory authority to block immigration. In June, the Supreme Court allowed the travel ban to take effect, with some significant restrictions, while the justices consider the merits of the case.

The changes to be announced this weekend could have a profound impact on the court case, complicating the review by the justices and potentially making parts of the case moot even before the oral arguments, which are scheduled for Oct. 10.

Officials from the Department of Justice declined to answer questions about whether they intend to take any actions related to the court case before the oral arguments. A spokesman for the department told reporters that “we are continuing to vigorously defend the president’s executive order.”

The original travel ban included restrictions on entry into the United States by refugees from around the world. The new rules do not appear to alter the limits on refugees, leaving that question open for the Supreme Court to decide.

The justices are likely to seek new input from lawyers for the government and for the groups challenging the travel ban before arguments begin.

Restrictions on travel are not unique to the Trump administration. The Department of Homeland Security employs almost 2,000 people in about 80 countries around the world screening high-risk travelers seeking to visit the United States.

For years, customs officers in the Immigration Advisory Program worked with airline employees and foreign security officials to review passenger ticketing data and examined documents in an attempt to detect fraud. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agents and State Department counterterrorism officials are also stationed at diplomatic posts to screen visa applicants for ties to terrorism, drug smuggling and human trafficking and to help ensure that ineligible applicants do not receive visas.

Dozens of officers at the National Targeting Center, which is run by Customs and Border Protection, have combed through passenger lists and cargo manifests since the days after the Sept. 11 attacks. Officers help identify which passengers should be subject to additional questioning by customs officers.

Mr. Trump and his national security officials have argued from the beginning that the travel ban was intended to give the government time to ensure that those practices were sufficient to make sure that terrorists are not able to enter the United States using travel documents for people on vacation or seeking temporary employment.

Critics accused the administration of basing threat assessments of travelers solely on the religion of the majority of people who lived in the nations identified by the executive order.

Some counterterrorism experts say a targeted vetting system that screens individuals on a case-by-case basis makes more sense than a total ban on travelers from certain countries.

“Vetting those coming to the United States against the broadest array of intelligence and law enforcement information is good security. Banning people because of their religion, ethnicity or country of origin is not good security and counter to our constitutional principles,” said John D. Cohen, a professor at Rutgers University and a former senior Homeland Security Department official during the Obama administration.

Mr. Cohen other counterterrorism experts said the Trump administration should beef up the existing programs that are intended to prevent criminals and national security threats from entering the country.

Trump’s Travel Ban to Be Replaced by Restrictions Tailored
to Certain Countries,
Sep. 22, 2017,






Trump Defends

Initial Remarks on Charlottesville;

Again Blames ‘Both Sides’


AUG. 15, 2017

The New York Times




WASHINGTON — President Trump reverted Tuesday to blaming both sides for the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Va., and at one point questioned whether the movement to pull down Confederate statues would lead to the desecration of memorials to George Washington.

Abandoning his precisely chosen and carefully delivered condemnations of the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis from a day earlier, the president furiously stuck by his initial reaction to the unrest in Charlottesville. He drew the very moral equivalency for which a bipartisan chorus, and his own advisers, had already criticized him.

“I think there is blame on both sides,” the president said in a combative exchange with reporters at Trump Tower in Manhattan. “You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now.”

Mr. Trump defended those gathered in a Charlottesville park to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. “I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups,” he said. “Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch.”

He criticized “alt-left” groups that he claimed were “very, very violent” when they sought to confront the white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups that had gathered in Charlottesville.
“Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee,” Mr. Trump said. “So this week, it is Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”

It was a remarkable rejection of the criticism he confronted after waiting two days before naming the right-wing groups in the bloodshed that ended with the death of a young woman after a car crashed into a crowd of protesters.

Mr. Trump accused people he called the alt-left of “swinging clubs” as they “came charging at, as you say, at the alt-right.” He said some of the right-wing members of the crowd in the Virginia park were “bad.” But he added that the other side came “charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent.”

Aides had urged him for days to take the high ground, persuading him on Monday to read a brief statement condemning the neo-Nazi groups from the Diplomatic Room in the White House. But over the past day, back in his private New York residence for the first time since becoming president, Mr. Trump was alone, without his wife and young son, and consuming hours of television, with many on cable news telling him he had not done enough.

On Monday night, he was tweeting his frustration, accusing the “fake media” of never being satisfied. But by Tuesday morning, the president was fuming again. At a scheduled event about the permitting process for infrastructure, Mr. Trump asked for questions — contrary to the wishes of his aides, including John F. Kelly, his new chief of staff, who stood to the side, looking grim.

Venting, his face red as he personally executed the defense of his own actions that no one else would, Mr. Trump all but erased any good will he had earned Monday when he named racist groups and called them “repugnant to everything we hold dear.”

His largely unprovoked presidential rant on Tuesday instantly sparked an even more intense critique, especially from Republicans.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan called white supremacy “repulsive” and said “there can be no moral ambiguity.” Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican of Florida, tweeted: “Blaming ‘both sides’ for #Charlottesville?! No.” Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said white nationalists in Charlottesville were “100% to blame” and wagged his finger at the president for suggesting otherwise.

“The #WhiteSupremacy groups will see being assigned only 50% of blame as a win,” Mr. Rubio said on Twitter moments after Mr. Trump’s remarks. “We can not allow this old evil to be resurrected.”

Senator Todd Young of Indiana, a freshman Republican, wrote: “This is simple: we must condemn and marginalize white supremacist groups, not encourage and embolden them.”

Even members of Mr. Trump’s own military appeared to take quick offense to their commander’s words. Hours after the president spoke, the Marine Corps commandant, General Robert B. Neller, wrote in a tweet that there is “no place for racial hatred or extremism in @USMC. Our core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment frame the way Marines live and act.”

Mr. Trump delivered his remarks in the lobby of Trump Tower, where officials had spent much of the day trying to erase certain telltale signatures of the brand that would be caught on TV — most significantly, a blue curtain was placed over the Ivanka Trump display in the lobby.

If Mr. Trump was aware of the reaction that would ensue after his clearly improvised remarks, he appeared immune to the consequences of those words, which electrified the lobby of his signature office building. It was there in 2015 that he launched his presidential campaign with a furious assault on illegal immigrants and a declaration that Mexicans were “rapists” bringing crime into the United States.

Instead, the president seemed determined to convince any doubters that he did not misspeak in his first reaction to the events in Virginia on Saturday.

Mr. Trump said his initial statement was shaped by a lack of information about the events in Charlottesville, even though television statements had been broadcasting images of the violence throughout the morning.

“There was no way of making a correct statement that early,” he said. “I had to see the facts, unlike a lot of reporters. I didn’t know David Duke was there. I wanted to see the facts.”

Within minutes, Mr. Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, praised Mr. Trump’s comments as a condemnation of “leftist terrorists.”

“Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville,” Mr. Duke said in a Twitter post.

But Mr. Trump also made it clear that even now — with the benefit of hindsight — he does not accept the overwhelming criticism that he should have reserved his condemnation for the white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups.

Mr. Trump called the driver of the car who the authorities said crashed into the crowd, James Alex Fields Jr., 20, “a disgrace to himself, his family and this country. You can call it terrorism. You can call it murder. You can call it whatever you want.”

Speaking bluntly about an ongoing investigation in a way that presidents rarely do, Mr. Trump said Mr. Fields, who is being held without bail on charges of murder and malicious wounding in the death of Heather Heyer, is “a murderer.”

“What he did was a horrible, horrible, inexcusable thing,” Mr. Trump said.

But he refused to explicitly say that the killing of the young woman was a case of domestic terrorism, saying only that “you get into legal semantics.”

The president also gave himself a pat on the back from Ms. Heyer’s mother, who thanked him in a statement for “words of comfort and for denouncing those who promote violence and hatred” after Monday’s remarks.

Mr. Trump said: “I thought it was terrific. Under the kind of stress that she is under and the heartache she is under, I thought putting out that statement to me was really something I won’t forget.”

He also unleashed his frustration at the news media on Tuesday, saying they were being “fake” because they did not acknowledge that his initial statement about the Charlottesville protest was “very nice.”

Again and again, Mr. Trump rejected any portrayal that nationalist protesters in the city were all neo-Nazis or white supremacists, and he said it was unfair to suggest that they were.

He said blame for the violence in the city — which also took the lives of two Virginia state troopers when their helicopter crashed — should also be on people from “the left” who came to oppose the nationalist protesters.

The president said it should be “up to a local town, community” to say whether the statue of Lee should remain in place.

Soon after Mr. Trump was done speaking, he wandered close to the velvet rope line that held a group of about 20 reporters and photographers, his mood noticeably brighter. A reporter asked if he planned to visit Charlottesville after the tragedy there. Mr. Trump replied by saying he has a house there, and provided an endorsement of the Trump Winery nearby.

Then he disappeared into Trump Bar, taking a shortcut to his residence next door.


Correction: August 15, 2017

An earlier version of this report incorrectly quoted President Trump’s words about taking down statues of historical leaders. His correct quote is: “So this week, it is Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”


Michael D. Shear reported from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from New York.

Get politics and Washington news updates via Facebook, Twitter and the Morning Briefing newsletter.

A version of this article appears in print on August 16, 2017, on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Trump Again Says Two Sides at Fault in Rally Violence.

Trump Defends Initial Remarks on Charlottesville;
Again Blames ‘Both Sides’,
AUG. 15, 2017,






Calling Comey a Liar,

Trump Says He Will Testify

Under Oath


JUNE 9, 2017

The New York Times




WASHINGTON — President Trump on Friday accused James B. Comey, the fired F.B.I. director, of lying under oath to Congress, saying he would gladly provide sworn testimony disputing Mr. Comey’s charge that the president forced him out because of his handling of the investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia.

Mr. Trump asserted that the comments on Thursday by Mr. Comey, whom he called “a leaker,” had proved that there was no collusion between his campaign and Moscow, nor any obstruction of justice by the president. He hinted again that he had tapes of his private talks with the former F.B.I. chief that would disprove Mr. Comey’s account, but declined to confirm the existence of any recordings.

“Yesterday showed no collusion, no obstruction,” Mr. Trump said in the White House Rose Garden, during a news conference with the visiting Romanian president, Klaus Iohannis.

He dismissed Mr. Comey’s testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which is investigating whether his campaign worked with Russia to sway the election, as a politically motivated stunt orchestrated by adversaries bitter about his victory in November.

“That was an excuse by the Democrats, who lost an election that some people think they shouldn’t have lost,” he said. “But we were very, very happy, and, frankly, James Comey confirmed a lot of what I said, and some of the things that he said just weren’t true.”

The remarks were a defiant response from Mr. Trump, who had remained uncharacteristically silent on social media during Mr. Comey’s blockbuster day of testimony on Thursday, as the former F.B.I. chief laid out an account that strongly suggested the president’s private exchanges with him had been an attempt to obstruct justice. They escalated an extraordinary public feud between a sitting president and the ousted F.B.I. director who had been investigating his campaign, each now engaging in full-throated accusations that the other is lying.

But Mr. Trump’s comments reflected a highly selective reading of Mr. Comey’s testimony, much of which painted a damaging picture of the president’s conduct. Mr. Comey told Congress that the president had not personally been under investigation while he was the F.B.I. director, and that at one point Mr. Trump suggested he would like to find out whether any of his associates had done anything wrong. But his account also strongly suggested that Mr. Trump had tried to influence his handling of the Russia inquiry.

Mr. Trump denied that he had ever asked Mr. Comey to drop the F.B.I. investigation into his former national security adviser’s dealings with Russia, or asked for a pledge of loyalty, as Mr. Comey asserted Thursday. Those conversations are reflected in memos Mr. Comey wrote, and now are in the possession of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel in the Russia investigation who was named after Mr. Comey’s firing.

“I didn’t say that,” Mr. Trump said of the request regarding the former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn. “And there’d be nothing wrong if I did say it.”

Of the loyalty pledge from Mr. Comey, Mr. Trump said, “I hardly know the man; I’m not going to ask him to pledge allegiance.”

Asked whether he would be willing to provide his version under oath, Mr. Trump responded, “100 percent.” He said of Mr. Mueller, “I would be glad to tell him exactly what I just told you.”

The president declined repeatedly to say whether, as he suggested last month in a Twitter post, he had recordings of his conversations with Mr. Comey. “I’ll tell you about it over a very short period of time,” he said. “You’re going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer.”

The tantalizing comment appeared to catch the attention of congressional investigators participating in the Russia probe. Representative K. Michael Conaway, Republican of Texas, and Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California, quickly announced they had written to Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, requesting that any recordings or memos about Mr. Trump’s conversations with Mr. Comey be furnished to the intelligence committee within two weeks. They also said they had made a formal request to Mr. Comey for copies of the memos he testified about on Thursday or notes reflecting the meetings.

During his Senate testimony on Thursday, Mr. Comey said he relished the idea of recordings of his conversations with Mr. Trump becoming public, saying, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” and seeming to taunt the president at one point, remarking, “Release all the tapes — I’m good with it.”

Mr. Comey testified that it was Mr. Trump’s May 12 Twitter post suggesting there were such tapes that prompted him to ask an intermediary to share information with a reporter from a memo he had created about his interactions with the president. The New York Times was read portions of the memo and on May 16 published an article, in which it was revealed that Mr. Trump had asked Mr. Comey to drop the Flynn matter.

Earlier on Friday, Mr. Trump posted on Twitter that Mr. Comey had given him “vindication” in the Russia investigation.

“Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication,” he wrote at 6:10 a.m.

He added, “and WOW, Comey is a leaker,” referring to the former F.B.I. director’s admission that he had orchestrated the leak of the contents of a memo detailing Oval Office discussions with the president to The Times through a friend. The president also recirculated another defense of his actions posted on Twitter by Alan M. Dershowitz, a Harvard Law School professor emeritus who has advised the Trump team on Middle Eastern policy. “We should stop talking about obstruction of justice,” Mr. Dershowitz said, linking to an interview he gave to Fox News. “No plausible case. We must distinguish crimes from pol sins.”

Mr. Trump’s team, led by his personal lawyer, Marc E. Kasowitz, on Friday was preparing a counterattack on Mr. Comey based in part on his admission that he arranged the leak of his account of the conversation with Mr. Trump in which he says the president suggested the F.B.I. halt its investigation into Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser. The president’s lawyers plan to file a complaint with the Justice Department inspector general next week arguing that Mr. Comey should not have shared what they call privileged communications, according to two people involved in the matter.

The lawyers also plan to send a complaint to the Senate Judiciary Committee raising questions about Mr. Comey’s previous testimony to that panel. On May 3, in response to Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa and the committee chairman, Mr. Comey said he had never been an anonymous source for news outlets about the investigation involving Mr. Trump’s team or authorized anyone at the F.B.I. to be.

In his testimony on Thursday, Mr. Comey said the memo whose contents he had a friend leak was not classified and therefore not inappropriate to make public. Mr. Trump’s lawyers argue that it was subject to executive privilege, although the president has never asserted privilege over his conversations with Mr. Comey and independent legal experts have expressed doubt that he could. Mr. Comey arranged the leak on May 15, after he was fired and after the May 3 hearing, so it would not be in direct conflict with that testimony.


Correction: June 9, 2017

An earlier version of this article misstated the surname of President Trump’s personal lawyer. He is Marc E. Kasowitz, not Kadowitz.

A version of this article appears in print on June 10, 2017,
on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline:
Trump Accuses Comey of Lying To the Senate.

Calling Comey a Liar, Trump Says He Will Testify Under Oath,
June 9, 2017,






The U.S. Won’t Actually Leave

the Paris Climate Deal Anytime Soon


JUNE 7, 2017

The New York Times



Last week, President Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. But it will take more than one speech to pull out: Under the rules of the deal, which the White House says it will follow, the earliest any country can leave is Nov. 4, 2020. That means the United States will remain a party to the accord for nearly all of Mr. Trump’s current term, and it could still try to influence the climate talks during that span.

So the next four years will be a busy time for climate policy. Mr. Trump’s aides plan to keep working to dismantle domestic climate programs like the Clean Power Plan. And the world’s nations will meet regularly to hash out details of the Paris agreement, even as the United States’ exit looms. Here is what comes next.

November 2017

Negotiators for 195 nations will meet in Bonn, Germany, to discuss how to carry out the Paris agreement. Every country has already submitted an initial pledge for curbing greenhouse gas emissions. But officials now have to write rules for monitoring and verifying those pledges.

Technically, the United States is still the co-chair of a key committee on transparency measures. In the past, American officials have taken a keen interest in this topic, pushing for robust oversight of emissions. By contrast, countries like China have argued for looser scrutiny for developing nations.

Mr. Trump has offered to “renegotiate” the Paris deal, because he says other countries are “laughing at us” while they renege on their pledges. While countries like France and Germany have ruled out a broad renegotiation of the agreement, the United States could nonetheless try to shape the rules from within.

“The question is whether the Trump administration still shows up for those discussions,” said Andrew Light, a senior climate change adviser at the State Department under President Barack Obama. “If they really are pushing to ‘renegotiate’ the deal, as they say, I don’t see why they wouldn’t go.”

Another thing to watch this fall: a growing coalition of states, cities and companies that are pledging to do as much as they can to meet the United States’ climate goals on their own. They will probably send a delegation to Bonn to reassure other countries that the United States is not completely out of the game.


November 2018

Everyone agrees that current pledges under the Paris agreement are nowhere near sufficient to keep total global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius, the threshold widely deemed unacceptably risky.

So, starting in 2018, countries have agreed to meet every five years to take stock of their emissions-cutting efforts to date, compare them with what is needed to stay below 2 degrees of warming, and then figure out how to ratchet up their ambitions. As part of this effort, countries will urge one another to make their existing pledges on emissions stronger. The Paris deal was meant to work through peer pressure, and experts say this “global stocktake” exercise is crucial for that.

The United States is also free to join these discussions, but it seems unlikely that the Trump administration will submit a stronger pledge. Some experts also fear that the United States could play a spoiler role in these discussions, in much the way that major oil producers like Saudi Arabia or Russia have done in the past.


Nov. 4, 2019

This is the earliest date that the United States can submit a written notice to the United Nations that it is withdrawing from the Paris deal — exactly three years after it came into force. As soon as that happens, the United States can leave the accord in exactly one year. (The Trump administration could also change its mind at any point beforehand and decide to stay in.)


Nov. 4, 2020

This is the earliest that the United States could officially withdraw from the climate accord. By coincidence, it would happen one day after the next presidential election.

Also by 2020, other countries are scheduled to offer new or updated commitments for how they plan to tackle climate change under the Paris deal. One question is whether the American exit might make these plans weaker than they otherwise would be. “My biggest worry is the corrosive effect on global ambitions,” said Elliot Diringer, executive vice president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

The Obama administration originally pledged that the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions would fall roughly 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. Emissions are currently about 12 percent below 2005 levels, and it remains uncertain how much further they will fall. The Trump administration is scrapping federal climate policies like the Clean Power Plan, but many states are pushing to expand renewable energy and shift away from coal power. If the United States comes close to its 2020 target, experts say, that may help persuade other countries in Paris not to scale back their own efforts.


January 2021

If a new president enters the White House on Jan. 20, 2021, he or she could easily submit a written notice to the United Nations that the United States would like to rejoin the Paris accord. Within 30 days, the United States could re-enter the agreement and submit a new pledge for how the country plans to tackle climate change.

If the United States does rejoin Paris, however, it could take time to regain the credibility it once had within climate discussions. “Other countries are certainly going to wonder if the American political system is just too volatile to be relied on for consistency on this issue,” Mr. Light said.


November 2023

Negotiators will meet again in 2023 to see how their second round of pledges and actions stack up against the 2-degree goal. The idea is that they will continually increase their ambitions and meet every five years to adjust accordingly.



The Obama administration vowed to cut greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 as part of the Paris deal. Even before Mr. Trump came into office, that target would have been difficult to reach without new policies, and it may prove unattainable now.

Other countries will be watching how close the United States may come. A recent analysis by the Rhodium Group estimated that United States emissions will now most likely fall 15 to 19 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, when taking into account both the effects of Mr. Trump’s policies and initiatives that states are pursuing.

But emissions could fall further if technologies like electric cars or solar power proliferate faster than expected, or if Congress or a new administration enacts additional policies, like a price on carbon. All of those factors could influence what actions other countries decide to take on climate change.

The U.S. Won’t Actually Leave the Paris Climate Deal Anytime Soon,
June 7, 2017,






Trump’s Budget

Cuts Deeply Into Medicaid

and Anti-Poverty Efforts


MAY 22, 2017

The New York Times



WASHINGTON — President Trump plans to unveil on Tuesday a $4.1 trillion budget for 2018 that would cut deeply into programs for the poor, from health care and food stamps to student loans and disability payments, laying out an austere vision for reordering the nation’s priorities.

The document, grandly titled “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” encapsulates much of the “America first” message that powered Mr. Trump’s campaign. It calls for an increase in military spending of 10 percent and spending more than $2.6 billion for border security — including $1.6 billion to begin work on a wall on the border with Mexico — as well as huge tax reductions and an improbable promise of 3 percent economic growth.

The wildly optimistic projections balance Mr. Trump’s budget, at least on paper, even though the proposal makes no changes to Social Security’s retirement program or Medicare, the two largest drivers of the nation’s debt.

To compensate, the package contains deep cuts in entitlement programs that would hit hardest many of the economically strained voters who propelled the president into office. Over the next decade, it calls for slashing more than $800 billion from Medicaid, the federal health program for the poor, while slicing $192 billion from nutritional assistance and $272 billion over all from welfare programs. And domestic programs outside of military and homeland security whose budgets are determined annually by Congress would also take a hit, their funding falling by $57 billion, or 10.6 percent.

The plan would cut by more than $72 billion the disability benefits upon which millions of Americans rely. It would eliminate loan programs that subsidize college education for the poor and those who take jobs in government or nonprofit organizations.

Mr. Trump’s advisers portrayed the steep reductions as necessary to balance the nation’s budget while sparing taxpayers from shouldering the burden of programs that do not work well.

“This is, I think, the first time in a long time that an administration has written a budget through the eyes of the people who are actually paying the taxes,” said Mick Mulvaney, Mr. Trump’s budget director.

“We’re not going to measure our success by how much money we spend, but by how many people we actually help,” Mr. Mulvaney said as he outlined the proposal at the White House on Monday before its formal presentation on Tuesday to Congress.

Among its innovations: Mr. Trump proposes saving $40 billion over a decade by barring undocumented immigrants from collecting the Child Tax Credit and adding additional measures to ensure they cannot collect the Earned Income Tax Credit. He has also requested $19 billion over 10 years for a new program, spearheaded by his daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump, to provide six weeks of paid leave to new parents. The budget also includes a broad prohibition against money for entities that provide abortions, including Planned Parenthood, blocking them from receiving any federal health funding

The release of the document, an annual ritual in Washington that usually constitutes a marquee event for a new president working to promote his vision, unfolded under unusual circumstances. Mr. Trump is out of the country for his first foreign trip, and his administration is enduring a near-daily drumbeat of revelations about the investigation into his campaign’s possible links with Russia.

The president’s absence, which his aides dismissed as a mere coincidence of the calendar, seemed to highlight the haphazard way in which his White House has approached its dealings with Congress. It is just as much a sign of Mr. Trump’s lack of enthusiasm for the policy detail and message discipline that is required to marshal support to enact politically challenging changes.

“If the president is distancing himself from the budget, why on earth would Republicans rally around tough choices that would have to be made?” said Robert L. Bixby, the executive director of the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan organization that promotes deficit reduction. “If you want to make the political case for the budget — and the budget is ultimately a political document — you really need the president to do it. So, it does seem bizarre that the president is out of the country.”

The president’s annual budget — more a message document than a practical set of marching orders even in the best of times — routinely faces challenges on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers jealously guard their prerogative to control federal spending and shape government programs. But Mr. Trump’s wish list, in particular, faces long odds, with Democrats uniformly opposed and Republicans already showing themselves to be squeamish about some of the president’s plans.

“It probably is the most conservative budget that we’ve had under Republican or Democrat administrations in decades,” said Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina and the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

But in a signal that some proposed cuts to domestic programs are likely to face resistance even from conservatives, Mr. Meadows said he could not stomach the idea of doing away with food assistance for older Americans.

“Meals on Wheels, even for some of us who are considered to be fiscal hawks, may be a bridge too far,” Mr. Meadows said.

Republicans balked at Mr. Trump’s demand for money for the border wall in negotiations over a spending package enacted last month. Many were deeply conflicted over voting for a health care overhaul measure that included the Medicaid cuts contained in the budget to be presented on Tuesday. Now the president is proposing still deeper reductions to the federal health program for the poor, as well as drastically scaling back a broad array of social safety net programs that are certain to be unpopular with lawmakers.

“The politics of this make no sense to me whatsoever, in the sense that the population that brought them to the dance are the populists out there in the Midwest and South who rely on these programs that he’s talking about reducing,” said G. William Hoagland, a former senior Republican congressional budget aide. Referring to Representative Paul D. Ryan, he said: “I don’t see how Speaker Ryan gets anywhere close to 218 votes in the House of Representatives if this is the model. It’s an exercise in futility.”

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, said Monday that the Medicaid cuts would “carry a staggering human cost” and violate Mr. Trump’s campaign promise to address the opioid epidemic.

“Based on what we know about this budget, the good news — the only good news — is that it was likely to be roundly rejected by members of both parties here in the Senate, just as the last budget was,” Mr. Schumer said on the Senate floor.

The budget itself avoids some of the tough choices that would be required to enact Mr. Trump’s fiscal vision. The huge tax cut was presented but without any detail about its elements or cost. Mr. Mulvaney said the tax plan would not add to the deficit, implying that its cost would be made up with other changes, such as eliminating deductions.

To balance the budget, Mr. Trump’s budget relies on growth he argues will be generated from the as-yet-unformed tax cut.

The blueprint also steers clear of changing Social Security’s retirement program or Medicare, steps that Mr. Mulvaney, a former South Carolina congressman who has backed entitlement cuts, said he had tried to persuade Mr. Trump to consider.

“He said, ‘I promised people on the campaign trail I would not touch their retirement and I would not touch Medicare,’ and we don’t do it,” Mr. Mulvaney said. “I honestly was surprised that we could balance the budget without changing those programs, but we managed to do that.”

But budget experts argued that was little more than fiction, and the plan could never deliver the results it claims to.

“The central inconsistency is promoting a massive tax cut and spending increases in some areas and leaving the major entitlement programs alone,” Mr. Bixby said. “You don’t have to be an economist to know that that doesn’t add up, and that’s why there’s a great deal of concern about the negative fiscal impact that this budget will have.”

While past presidents have often launched a road show with stops around the country to promote the components of their inaugural budgets, Mr. Trump is spending the rest of the week overseas, leaving his staff to explain his plan while Republicans prepare their own response.

“This budget is dead before arrival, so he might as well be out of town,” said David A. Stockman, a former budget director under President Ronald Reagan.

Mr. Stockman said both political parties had grown comfortable with running large annual budget deficits. “There’s not a snowball’s chance that most of this deep deficit reduction will even be considered in a serious way.”



Correction: May 24, 2017

An article on Tuesday about President Trump’s budget proposals, using information from Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, misstated a proposal to bar undocumented immigrants from receiving certain tax credits. A Social Security number is already required to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit. The proposal would impose this requirement for the Child Tax Credit, and the Child and Dependent Care Credit is not affected. The article also referred incorrectly to one effect on Social Security. The budget proposes cutting Social Security disability benefits, not reducing retirement benefits.

Binyamin Appelbaum and Thomas Kaplan contributed reporting.

Trump’s Budget Cuts Deeply Into Medicaid and Anti-Poverty Efforts,
May 22, 2017,






Immigration Arrests Rise Sharply

as a Trump Mandate Is Carried Out


MAY 17, 2017

The New York Times



Immigration arrests shot up 38 percent in the first three months of the Trump administration compared with the same period last year, according to figures released Wednesday, one of the first clear indications that the president’s hard-line policies are being carried out on a grand scale.

While President Trump’s more attention-grabbing ideas have been blocked or stalled, like building a border wall and temporarily stopping travel from some Muslim-majority countries, the statistics released by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement suggested that the more street-level aspects of his immigration agenda have achieved significant results, and quickly.

From Jan. 22 to April 29, ICE officers arrested 41,318 people, at a rate of more than 400 people per day, compared with 30,028 over roughly the same period in 2016, the data showed.

“These statistics reflect President Trump’s commitment to enforce our immigration laws fairly and across the board,” said Thomas Homan, the acting director of ICE, on a phone call with reporters.
Thomas Homan, left, the acting director of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, and Derek Benner, of Homeland Security investigations, at a news conference in Washington last week to announce the results of a national operation targeting gang members and associates. Credit Susan Walsh/Associated Press

Many of the arrests took place at immigrants’ homes, as teams of agents spread out in the early hours of the morning to catch people before they left for work, a common tactic designed to avoid a public scene. But agents also have been moving more aggressively, taking into custody people who arrived for routine check-ins, and even apprehending people arriving at courthouses on nonimmigration matters.

The rapid increase in arrests was primarily the result of one of Mr. Trump’s first significant immigration moves, rescinding rules laid down by former President Barack Obama that prioritized the arrest of the most serious criminals and largely left other undocumented immigrants alone. More than half of the increase in arrests were of immigrants who had committed no crime other than being in the country without permission.

Mr. Obama’s policy was rooted in both humanitarian and budgetary reasons, but to Mr. Trump and his supporters, and many ICE agents, it represented a failure to enforce the law and a de facto amnesty for millions of people in the United States illegally.

Supporters of Mr. Trump’s immigration policies welcomed the news. “I feel that’s one step in the right direction, I definitely feel that way,” said J. D. Ma, a lawyer in Clarksville, Md., who voted for Hillary Clinton but agreed with the president on immigration. “The reality is that if you don’t do that, that’s going to encourage wave after wave and disrupt the order of the society.”

At the same time, the wider net has frustrated some local law enforcement officials who have pointed to evidence that arrests, especially those at courthouses, were discouraging undocumented immigrants from reporting crimes. Since Mr. Trump was elected, reports by Latinos of sexual assaults and domestic violence have declined sharply.

“What it tells me is that the department is willing to put enforcement numbers ahead of any kind of strategy that would actually try to keep us all safer going forward,” said Omar Jadwat, the director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Aware of the criticism, the federal authorities have frequently noted that a majority of those arrested — 75 percent in Mr. Trump’s first three months — were still people with criminal records.

Those swept up have committed a broad range of offenses. Guadalupe García de Rayos, a mother in Arizona, had used a false Social Security number to work at a water park. Juan Antonio Melchor Molina, a fugitive from Mexico, is wanted on a murder charge.

Although agents are no longer limited in whom they can pick up, Mr. Homan said that more than 2,700 of those arrested had been convicted of serious crimes like assault, rape or murder.

“If you look at the numbers, the men and women of ICE are still prioritizing these arrests in a way that makes sense,” he said.

Mr. Trump’s policies also appear to have slowed the flow of people crossing the southern border illegally, which has reached its lowest number in years, as migrants are choosing to seek refuge in other countries or endure poor conditions at home.

Unless they have already been ordered deported by a judge, immigrants who are arrested can plead their case in immigration courts, which have been snarled by a backlog that exceeds half a million cases. Over all, Mr. Homan said that deportations were down 12 percent from the previous year, partly because of a steep decline in illegal border crossings.

The increase in arrests under President Trump is less stark compared with 2011, when President Obama’s immigration agency apprehended 351,029 people, or about 29,000 a month. But arrests and deportations decreased in the years that followed as the Obama administration narrowed its focus to serious criminals.

Other aspects of Mr. Trump’s immigration agenda have not produced such quick results. His border wall has yet to be funded by Congress and his travel bans have been blocked by courts. Last month, a federal judge in San Francisco halted the Justice Department’s plans to financially punish so-called sanctuary cities that limit how much local police and jails may cooperate with ICE.

But at the current rate of arrests, ICE may surpass the highest annual numbers it reached under Mr. Obama in Mr. Trump’s very first year.

“That’s great news!” said Scott Hayes, a landscaper from Beverly, Mass. Mr. Hayes said he lost two more accounts this year because he was undercut on price, one of them, he believes, to illegal immigrants.

He said the changes under Mr. Trump were being felt in his area. Mr. Hayes said he was going out to mow a lawn last week and a friend from another landscaping company came running up to him. The friend said the owner of that company was furious with Mr. Trump.

“I said, over what?” Mr. Hayes said. “He said he can’t find any help! Trump is kicking them all out!”

Mr. Hayes added: “That’s why I was so passionate for Trump,” he said. “I wanted to expose these guys for who they are, if they are hiring illegal immigrants.”



Correction: May 19, 2017

An article on Thursday about a sharp increase in immigration arrests referred imprecisely to one voter’s support for President Trump. J.D. Ma supports the president’s policies on illegal immigration but voted for Hillary Clinton, not for Mr. Trump.

Sabrina Tavernise contributed reporting.

A version of this article appears in print on May 18, 2017, on Page A22 of the New York edition with the headline: Immigration Arrests Rise Sharply as Agents Carry Out a Trump Mandate.

Immigration Arrests Rise Sharply as a Trump Mandate Is Carried Out,
May 17, 2017,






Trump Adopts a Harder Line

on Israeli Settlements


FEB. 10, 2017

The New York Times



WASHINGTON — President Trump, who presented himself as a staunch supporter of Israel during last year’s campaign, took a harder line on settlements in an interview published on Friday and indicated that he was rethinking his promise to move the United States Embassy to Jerusalem.

Mr. Trump told an Israeli newspaper that settlements “don’t help the process” and that he did not believe that “going forward with these settlements is a good thing for peace.” He also did not reaffirm his past vow to move the embassy, saying that it “is not an easy decision” and “we will see what happens.”

The comments amounted to a striking recalibration of Mr. Trump’s approach to Israel just five days before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to visit the White House.

Mr. Trump and Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, have been exploring an Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative that would enlist Arab allies, and a host of Arab leaders have told the new president that provocative pro-Israel positions would not help.

The interview was conducted with Israel Hayom, the newspaper owned by Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate and close ally of Mr. Netanyahu. Mr. Trump hosted Mr. Adelson and his wife for dinner at the White House on Thursday night, along with Mr. Kushner and Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson.

The president’s language in the interview went beyond the carefully written statement issued by the White House last week saying that settlements were not an impediment to peace but they “may not be helpful.” The statement was seen as a sign that Mr. Trump wanted Mr. Netanyahu to hold off contentious moves, at least until their meeting next week.

Since Mr. Trump’s inauguration, Mr. Netanyahu’s government has announced the construction of 5,500 new houses in the occupied West Bank, and the prime minister even raised the idea of building the first entirely new settlement in years. Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition pushed through Parliament a new bill retroactively authorizing thousands of houses built on Palestinian-owned land that are illegal even under Israeli law.

“They don’t help the process,” Mr. Trump said of settlements in the Israel Hayom interview. “I can say that. There is so much land left. And every time you take land for settlements, there is less land left.” He added: “I am not somebody that believes that going forward with these settlements is a good thing for peace.”

Mr. Trump’s statement on the embassy move was also strikingly different than past comments.

Arab leaders have warned him that moving the embassy to Jerusalem, which both Israelis and Palestinians claim, would lead to angry and possibly violent reactions because it would be seen as prejudging a final settlement between the two sides. The last three presidents refused to move the embassy there for that very reason.

Last year, Mr. Trump said he would move the embassy “fairly quickly” after taking office. When approached by Boaz Bismuth of Israel Hayom on the eve of his inauguration last month, he reiterated his commitment by saying, “You know I’m not a person who breaks promises.”

But when Mr. Bismuth asked about it on Thursday, Mr. Trump did not repeat his vow. Instead, he said he was studying it.

“The embassy is not an easy decision,” Mr. Trump said. “It has obviously been out there for many, many years and nobody has wanted to make that decision. I’m thinking about it very seriously and we will see what happens.”

Mr. Trump, who last year blistered his predecessor, President Barack Obama, for not being supportive enough of Israel, said he would not publicly criticize it. “I don’t want to condemn Israel,” he said. “Israel has had a long history of condemnation and difficulty. And I don’t want to be condemning Israel.”

But he also said he wanted Israel to compromise to make peace. “I want Israel to be reasonable with respect to peace,” he said.

Mr. Trump did not offer support for a two-state solution, which has been American policy for years. However, he held out the prospect of a regional agreement.

“Maybe there is even a chance for a bigger peace than just Israel and the Palestinians,” he said. “I would like to see a level of reasonableness of both parties and I think we have a good chance of doing that.”


Follow Peter Baker on Twitter @peterbakernyt.

A version of this article appears in print on February 11, 2017, on Page A11 of the New York edition with the headline: A Shifting Approach to Israeli Settlements.

Trump Adopts a Harder Line on Israeli Settlements,
NYT, FEB. 10, 2017,






Trump Foreign Policy

Quickly Loses Its Sharp Edge


FEB. 10, 2017

The New York Times

Politics | News Analysis



WASHINGTON — When President Trump took a phone call from the leader of Taiwan in December and asserted that the United States might no longer be bound by the “One China” policy, his defenders hailed it as a show of strength — the latest delicate issue on which Mr. Trump was willing to challenge decades of diplomatic orthodoxy.

On Thursday evening, Mr. Trump fell back into line. In a call with President Xi Jinping of China, he pledged fealty to One China, a 44-year-old policy under which the United States recognized a single Chinese government in Beijing and severed its diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

Mr. Trump has also tacked to the center on Israel. After presenting himself as a stalwart defender of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who would buck the pressure campaign against Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Mr. Trump warned Israelis this week that he did not believe that “going ahead with these settlements is a good thing for peace.”

And on Iran, where Mr. Trump threatened as a candidate to rip up the nuclear deal struck by President Barack Obama, advisers to the new president told the European Union’s top foreign policy official, Federica Mogherini, that the United States would fully carry out the agreement.

As Mr. Trump begins to shape his foreign policy, he is proving to be less of a radical than either his campaign statements or his tempestuous early phone calls with foreign leaders would suggest. On Friday, as he welcomed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan to the White House, Mr. Trump characterized America’s alliance with Japan as a “cornerstone of peace and stability.” Those time-tested words bore little resemblance to his threats during the campaign to mothball the partnership.

“Every president discovers that it looks different from the perspective of the Oval Office than it did on the campaign trail,” said Martin S. Indyk, the executive vice president of the Brookings Institution. “The fact that President Trump is proving flexible on some key foreign policy issues suggests he’s less ideologically driven than his early moves would imply.”

To some extent, Mr. Trump is simply undergoing the same evolution that all of his predecessors went through. Mr. Obama, who ran as an antiwar candidate, became an avid user of drone strikes and other covert counterterrorism operations pioneered by George W. Bush.

In Mr. Trump’s case, however, the recalibration is starker because of the extreme nature of the positions he had staked out on issues like China, Russia and the NATO alliance, as well as the Trump campaign’s thin ranks of policy advisers and his slowness in assembling a full national security team in the White House. It also stands in stark contrast to his more uncompromising approach on other matters like the legal challenges to his executive order on immigration.

“He made it all the way to inauguration without doing the deep-dive policy reviews and internal debates that every other successful administration does during the campaign and the transition,” said Peter D. Feaver, who served in Mr. Bush’s National Security Council.

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, administration officials said, was among those who urged Mr. Trump to publicly endorse the One China policy as a way to defuse tensions with Mr. Xi. Before Thursday, the two leaders had not spoken since Nov. 14; administration officials said that the Chinese leader would not get on the phone with Mr. Trump without assurances from the administration that he would commit to the policy.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has also emerged as an influential player, officials said. He recently returned from a trip to Asia during which he offered reassurances of American support for allies like Japan and South Korea. Among his travel companions was Matthew Pottinger, who recently became the senior director for Asia in the National Security Council.

“There finally is an administration beginning to take shape around him, which there was not before — Tillerson and Mattis in particular,” said Jeffrey A. Bader, a former top China adviser to Mr. Obama. “During the transition, no one had the nerve or expertise to contradict him.”

In addition to his cabinet officers, Mr. Trump and his aides are beginning to soak up advice from other leaders. The president stiffened his tone on settlements after he met briefly with King Abdullah II of Jordan; his advisers, including Jared Kushner, spoke with Arab officials, who urged the administration not to give Israel a free hand on the issue.

In an interview with an Israeli newspaper, Israel Hayom, which was published on Friday, Mr. Trump said settlements “don’t help the process” — a phrase that is not substantially different from those used by Mr. Obama or Mr. Bush.

“Every time you take land for settlements, there is less land left,” Mr. Trump continued.

When the White House issued an initial statement on settlements last week, some analysts read its ambiguous wording as leaving Israel plenty of room for maneuvering. It said that settlements were not an impediment to peace, but that they “may not be helpful.” Mr. Trump’s remarks were more pointed, however, and experts said they suggested a genuine shift.

“The right-wingers who looked at him like he was going to be the master builder of the Middle East — that was not warranted,” said David Makovsky, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “The more he immerses himself in this, he will see there are conflicting pressures and realities. He is going to have to navigate within those constraints.”

The White House’s pledge to carry out the Iran nuclear deal does not reflect a change of heart on Tehran. The administration last week imposed new sanctions on Iran for its launching of a ballistic missile. But officials in the White House are more focused on curbing what they see as a pattern of aggressive behavior by Iran from Syria to Yemen.

Mr. Trump’s retreat on One China, experts said, also should be seen in a regional context. He offered the concession to Mr. Xi on the eve of a three-day visit by Mr. Abe, during which the Japanese leader had lunch at the White House and is Mr. Trump’s guest at Mar-a-Lago, where they and their wives are having dinner, and the two men are playing golf at a nearby club.

To allow the tensions between China and the United States to fester during such a prominent display of hospitality to the Japanese, analysts said, would have further poisoned relations between Washington and Beijing. At his news conference with Mr. Abe, Mr. Trump took pains to say he and Mr. Xi were developing their own rapport.

“It was a very, very warm conversation,” Mr. Trump said. “I think we are in the process of getting along very well, and I think that we’ll also be very much of a benefit to Japan.”

Mr. Abe appeared pleased, too, noting that the president had reaffirmed the American security guarantee to Japan, including over what the Japanese call the Senkaku Islands, which are administered by Japan but claimed by both Japan and China. That was a far cry from Mr. Trump’s suggestion during the campaign that the United States might walk away from the alliance.


Michael J. Green, an Asia director in Mr. Bush’s National Security Council, noted that in the weeks before Mr. Trump took office, he suggested that the key pillars of America’s relationship with both China and Japan — the One China policy and the mutual defense treaty — would both be on the table, chips to be used in a broader negotiation.

“What’s been so interesting about the last few days is that Trump took both issues off the table,” Mr. Green said. “You can hear the sigh of relief across the whole Asia-Pacific region.”


A version of this news analysis appears in print on February 11, 2017, on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Foreign Policy Quickly Sheds Its Sharp Edge.

Trump Foreign Policy Quickly Loses Its Sharp Edge,
NYT, FEB. 10, 2017,






Court Refuses to Reinstate Travel Ban,

Dealing Trump Another Legal Loss


FEB. 9, 2017

The New York Times



WASHINGTON — A federal appeals panel on Thursday unanimously rejected President Trump’s bid to reinstate his ban on travel into the United States from seven largely Muslim nations, a sweeping rebuke of the administration’s claim that the courts have no role as a check on the president.

The three-judge panel, suggesting that the ban did not advance national security, said the administration had shown “no evidence” that anyone from the seven nations — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — had committed terrorist acts in the United States.

The ruling also rejected Mr. Trump’s claim that courts are powerless to review a president’s national security assessments. Judges have a crucial role to play in a constitutional democracy, the court said.

“It is beyond question,” the decision said, “that the federal judiciary retains the authority to adjudicate constitutional challenges to executive action.”

The decision was handed down by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco. It upheld a ruling last Friday by a federal district judge, James L. Robart, who blocked key parts of the travel ban, allowing thousands of foreigners to enter the country.

The appeals court acknowledged that Mr. Trump was owed deference on his immigration and national security policies. But it said he was claiming something more — that “national security concerns are unreviewable, even if those actions potentially contravene constitutional rights and protections.”

Within minutes of the ruling, Mr. Trump angrily vowed to fight it, presumably in an appeal to the Supreme Court.


At the White House, the president told reporters that the ruling was “a political decision” and predicted that his administration would win an appeal “in my opinion, very easily.” He said he had not yet conferred with his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, on the matter.

The Supreme Court remains short-handed and could deadlock. A 4-to-4 tie there would leave the appeals court’s ruling in place. The administration has moved fast in the case so far, and it is likely to file an emergency application to the Supreme Court in a day or two. The court typically asks for a prompt response from the other side, and it could rule soon after it received one. A decision next week, either to reinstate the ban or to continue to block it, is possible.

The travel ban, one of the first executive orders Mr. Trump issued after taking office, suspended worldwide refugee entry into the United States. It also barred visitors from seven Muslim-majority nations for up to 90 days to give federal security agencies time to impose stricter vetting processes.

Immediately after it was issued, the ban spurred chaos at airports and protests nationwide as foreign travelers found themselves stranded at immigration checkpoints by a policy that critics derided as un-American. The State Department said up to 60,000 foreigners’ visas were canceled in the days immediately after the ban was imposed.

The World Relief Corporation, one of the agencies that resettles refugees in the United States, called the ruling “fabulous news” for 275 newcomers who are scheduled to arrive in the next week, many of whom will be reunited with family.

“We have families that have been separated for years by terror, war and persecution,” said Scott Arbeiter, the president of the organization, which will arrange for housing and jobs for the refugees in cities including Seattle; Spokane, Wash.; and Sacramento.

“Some family members had already been vetted and cleared and were standing with tickets, and were then told they couldn’t travel,” Mr. Arbeiter said. “So the hope of reunification was crushed, and now they will be admitted.”

Several Democrats said they hoped the appeals court ruling would cow Mr. Trump into rescinding the ban. Representative Karen Bass, Democrat of California, said in a statement that the ban “is rooted in bigotry and, most importantly, it’s illegal.”

“We will not stop,” Ms. Bass said.

But some Republicans cast aspersions on the Ninth Circuit’s decision and predicted that it would not withstand a challenge in the Supreme Court.

“Courts ought not second-guess sensitive national security decisions of the president,” Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, said in a statement.

“This misguided ruling is from the Ninth Circuit, the most notoriously left-wing court in America, and the most-reversed court at the Supreme Court,” he said. “I’m confident the administration’s position will ultimately prevail.”

Trial judges nationwide have blocked aspects of Mr. Trump’s executive order, but no other case has yet reached an appeals court. The case in front of Judge Robart, in Seattle, was filed by the states of Washington and Minnesota and is still at an early stage. The appeals court order issued Thursday ruled only on the narrow question of whether to stay a lower court’s temporary restraining order blocking the travel ban.

The appeals court said the government had not justified suspending travel from the seven countries. “The government has pointed to no evidence,” the decision said, “that any alien from any of the countries named in the order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States.”

The three members of the panel were Judge Michelle T. Friedland, appointed by President Barack Obama; Judge William C. Canby Jr., appointed by President Jimmy Carter; and Judge Richard R. Clifton, appointed by President George W. Bush.

They said the states were likely to succeed at the end of the day because Mr. Trump’s order appeared to violate the due process rights of lawful permanent residents, people holding visas and refugees.

The court said the administration’s legal position in the case had been a moving target. It noted that Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, had issued “authoritative guidance” several days after the executive order came out, saying it did not apply to lawful permanent residents. But the court said that “we cannot rely” on that statement.

“The White House counsel is not the president,” the decision said, “and he is not known to be in the chain of command for any of the executive departments.“ It also mentioned “the government’s shifting interpretations” of the executive order.

In its briefs and in the arguments before the panel on Tuesday, the Justice Department’s position evolved. As the case progressed, the administration offered a backup plea for at least a partial victory.

At most, a Justice Department brief said, “previously admitted aliens who are temporarily abroad now or who wish to travel and return to the United States in the future” should be allowed to enter the country despite the ban.

The appeals court ultimately rejected that request, however, saying that people in the United States without authorization have due process rights, as do citizens with relatives who wish to travel to the United States.

The court discussed, but did not decide, whether the executive order violated the First Amendment’s ban on government establishment of religion by disfavoring Muslims.

It noted that the states challenging the executive order “have offered evidence of numerous statements by the president about his intent to implement a ‘Muslim ban.’” And it said, rejecting another administration argument, that it was free to consider evidence about the motivation behind laws that draw seemingly neutral distinctions.

But the court said it would defer a decision on the question of religious discrimination.

“The political branches are far better equipped to make appropriate distinctions,” the decision said. “For now, it is enough for us to conclude that the government has failed to establish that it will likely succeed on its due process argument in this appeal.”

The court also acknowledged “the massive attention this case has garnered at even the most preliminary stages.”

“On the one hand, the public has a powerful interest in national security and in the ability of an elected president to enact policies,” the decision said. “And on the other, the public also has an interest in free flow of travel, in avoiding separation of families, and in freedom from discrimination.”

“These competing public interests,” the court said, “do not justify a stay.”

The court ruling did not affect one part of the executive order: the cap of 50,000 refugees to be admitted in the 2017 fiscal year. That is down from the 110,000 ceiling put in place under President Barack Obama. The order also directed the secretary of state and the secretary of homeland security to prioritize refugee claims made by persecuted members of religious minorities.

As of Thursday, that means the United States will be allowed to accept only about 16,000 more refugees this fiscal year. Since Oct. 1, the start of the fiscal year, 33,929 refugees have been admitted, 5,179 of them Syrians.


Julie Hirschfeld Davis contributed reporting from Washington, Katharine Q. Seelye from Boston, and Liz Robbins and Caitlin Dickerson from New York.

Follow Adam Liptak on Twitter @adamliptak.

Follow The New York Times’s politics and Washington coverage on Facebook and Twitter, and sign up for the First Draft politics newsletter.

A version of this article appears in print on February 10, 2017, on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Judges Refuse to Reinstate Travel Ban.

Court Refuses to Reinstate Travel Ban, Dealing Trump Another Legal Loss,
NYT, FEB. 9, 2017,






Trump Embraces

Pillars of Obama’s Foreign Policy


FEB. 2, 2017





WASHINGTON — President Trump, after promising a radical break with the foreign policy of Barack Obama, is embracing some key pillars of the former administration’s strategy, including warning Israel to curb settlement construction, demanding that Russia withdraw from Crimea and threatening Iran with sanctions for ballistic missile tests.

In the most startling shift, the White House issued an unexpected statement appealing to the Israeli government not to expand the construction of Jewish settlements beyond their current borders in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Such expansion, it said, “may not be helpful in achieving” the goal of peace.

At the United Nations, Ambassador Nikki R. Haley declared that the United States would not lift sanctions against Russia until it stopped destabilizing Ukraine and pulled troops out of Crimea.

On Iran, the administration is preparing economic sanctions similar to those the Obama administration imposed just over a year ago. The White House has also shown no indication that it plans to rip up Mr. Obama’s landmark nuclear deal, despite Mr. Trump’s withering criticism of it during the presidential campaign.

New administrations often fail to change the foreign policies of their predecessors as radically as they promised, in large part because statecraft is so different from campaigning. And of course, today’s positions could shift over time. There is no doubt the Trump administration has staked out new ground on trade and immigration, upending relations with Mexico and large parts of the Muslim world in the process.

But the administration’s reversals were particularly stark because they came after days of tempestuous phone calls between Mr. Trump and foreign leaders, in which he gleefully challenged diplomatic orthodoxy and appeared to jeopardize one relationship after another.

Mr. Trump made warmer relations with Russia the centerpiece of his foreign policy during the campaign, and European leaders had been steeling for him to lift sanctions they and Mr. Obama imposed on President Vladimir V. Putin after he annexed Crimea. But on Thursday, Mr. Trump’s United Nations ambassador, Ms. Haley, sounded a lot like her predecessor, Samantha Power.

“We do want to better our relations with Russia,” she said in her first remarks to an open session of the United Nations Security Council. “However, the dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions.”

Similarly, Mr. Trump presented himself during the campaign as a stalwart supporter of Israel and criticized the Obama administration for allowing the passage of a Security Council resolution in December that condemned Israel for its expansion of settlements.

“While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace,” his press secretary, Sean Spicer, said in a statement, “the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal.”

The White House noted that the president “has not taken an official position on settlement activity.” It said he would discuss the issue with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel when they meet Feb. 15, in effect telling Mr. Netanyahu to wait until then. Emboldened by Mr. Trump’s support, Israel has announced more than 5,000 new homes in the West Bank since his inauguration.

Mr. Trump shifted his policy after he met briefly with King Abdullah II of Jordan on the sidelines of the National Prayer Breakfast — an encounter that put the king, one of the most respected leaders of the Arab world, ahead of Mr. Netanyahu in seeing the new president. Jordan, with its large Palestinian population, has been steadfastly critical of settlements.

The administration’s abrupt turnaround also coincided with Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson’s first day at the State Department and the arrival of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in South Korea on his first official trip. Both men are viewed as potentially capable of exerting a moderating influence on the president and his cadre of White House advisers, though it was unclear how much they had to do with the shifts.

With Iran, Mr. Trump has indisputably taken a harder line than his predecessor. While the Obama administration often looked for ways to avoid confrontation with Iran in its last year, Mr. Trump seems equally eager to challenge what he has said is an Iranian expansion across the region, especially in Iraq and Yemen.

In an early morning Twitter post on Thursday, Mr. Trump was bombastic on Iran. “Iran has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile,” he wrote. “Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the U.S. made with them!” In a second post, he said wrongly, “Iran was on its last legs and ready to collapse until the U.S. came along and gave it a life-line in the form of the Iran Deal: $150 billion.”

Still, the administration has been careful not to specify what the national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, meant when he said on Wednesday that Iran had been put “on notice” for its missile test and for its arming and training of the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The new sanctions could be announced as soon as Friday. But most experts have said they will have little practical effect, because the companies that supply missile parts rarely have direct business with the United States, and allies have usually been reluctant to reimpose sanctions after many were lifted as part of the 2015 nuclear accord.

Ali Akbar Velayati, an adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, replied, “This is not the first time that an inexperienced person has threatened Iran,” according to the semiofficial Fars news agency. “The American government will understand that threatening Iran is useless.”

Some analysts said they worried that the administration did not have tools, short of military action, to back up its warning.

“Whether the Trump administration intended it or not, they have created their own red line,” said Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “When Iran tests again, the administration will have no choice but to put up or shut up.”

Mr. Netanyahu will cheer Mr. Trump’s tough tone with Iran. But the statement on settlements may force him to change course on a delicate domestic issue. His coalition government seemed to take Mr. Trump’s inauguration as a starting gun in a race to increase construction in occupied territory.

After Mr. Trump was sworn in, Israel announced that it would authorize another 2,500 homes in areas already settled in the West Bank, and then followed that this week by announcing 3,000 more. On Wednesday, Mr. Netanyahu took it a step further, vowing to build the first new settlement in the West Bank in many years.

For Mr. Netanyahu, the settlement spree reflects a sense of liberation after years of constraints from Washington, especially under Mr. Obama, who, like other presidents, viewed settlement construction as an impediment to negotiating a final peace settlement. It is also an effort to deflect criticism from Israel’s political right for Mr. Netanyahu’s compliance with a court order to force several dozen families out of an illegal West Bank outpost, Amona.

The “beyond their current borders” phrase in the White House statement hinted at a return to a policy President George W. Bush outlined to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2004, which acknowledged that it was unrealistic to expect Israel to give up its major settlements in a final deal, although they would be offset by mutually agreed-upon land swaps.

Mr. Trump had also promised to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But the White House has slowed down the move, in part out of fear of a violent response.

The policy shifts came after a turbulent week in which Mr. Trump also clashed with the leaders of Australia and Mexico over one of the most fraught issues of his new presidency: immigration. He defended the tense exchanges as an overdue display of toughness by a United States that has been exploited “by every nation in the world, virtually.”

“They’re tough; we have to be tough. It’s time we’re going to be a little tough, folks,” he said at the prayer breakfast Thursday. “It’s not going to happen anymore.”

Yet later in the day, the White House felt obliged to put a more diplomatic gloss on events. Mr. Spicer said Mr. Trump’s call with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia had been “very cordial,” even if Mr. Trump bitterly opposed an agreement negotiated by the Obama administration for the United States to accept the transfer of 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention camp.

A senior administration official disputed a report that Mr. Trump had threatened to send troops to Mexico to deal with its “bad hombres.” The official said that the conversation with President Enrique Peña Nieto had been “actually very friendly,” and that Mr. Trump had been speaking in jest.



Reporting was contributed by Somini Sengupta from the United Nations, Isabel Kershner from Jerusalem, and Gardiner Harris and Glenn Thrush from Washington.

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A version of this article appears in print on February 3, 2017, on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Trump Reverts to Pillars of Obama Polices Abroad.

Trump Embraces Pillars of Obama’s Foreign Policy,
NYT, FEB. 2, 2017,






White House Defends

Commando Raid

on Qaeda Branch in Yemen


FEB. 2, 2017

The New York Times



WASHINGTON — The White House on Thursday defended the planning and execution of a Special Operations raid in Yemen on Sunday — the first approved by President Trump since taking office — that left one American commando dead and three others injured, and most likely killed several civilians, including children.

Sean M. Spicer, President Trump’s press secretary, offered an unusually detailed chronology of the mission involving members of the Navy’s SEAL Team 6 against the home of a senior Qaeda collaborator. He said it started with a plan submitted by the military’s Central Command in November under the Obama administration and ended with Mr. Trump receiving updates in the White House on Saturday night as the mission unfolded eight time zones away.

“This was a very, very well-thought-out and executed effort,” Mr. Spicer said.

Mr. Trump has justified the risky attack on the heavily guarded house, saying the commandos recovered valuable information, including laptops and cellphones, that could help thwart future terrorist attacks. Military officials said on Thursday that while that could prove to be true, analysts were only just beginning to delve into the materials.

Almost everything on the mission that could go wrong did. A Yemeni tribal sheikh said the Qaeda fighters were somehow tipped off to the troops’ stealthy advance toward the village — perhaps by the whine of American drones that the tribal leader said were flying lower and louder than usual.

The assault force, which also included elite troops from the United Arab Emirates, quickly found itself under intense fire from all sides — even from female combatants who unexpectedly took up weapons from assigned fighting positions — forcing the Americans to call in strikes from helicopter gunships and attack planes.

A Pentagon spokesman, Capt. Jeff Davis, denied on Thursday that the mission had been compromised.

On Wednesday, Mr. Trump flew to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to be present as the body of the American commando killed in the raid, Chief Petty Officer William Owens, was returned home. It was the first military death on the new commander in chief’s watch.

Mr. Spicer insisted on Thursday that the commandos had accomplished their mission, even though “it is tough to ever use the word ‘success’ when you know that somebody has lost their life.”

His explanation did not quell calls from human rights groups and at least one Democratic member of the House Armed Services Committee for an investigation into the mission and the allegations of civilian casualties. The Central Command said on Wednesday that civilian casualties were likely and that it was investigating.

According to Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, the dead include the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born Qaeda leader who was killed in a targeted drone strike in 2011.

Planning for the mission started months ago, Mr. Spicer said. On Nov. 7, the Central Command submitted its plan to the Pentagon for review. The Defense Department approved it on Dec. 19, and the plan was sent to Mr. Obama’s National Security Council staff.

On Jan. 6, a meeting of senior Obama security aides, called the deputies committee, recommended that the plan go forward, Mr. Spicer said. Military officials have said that Mr. Obama did not act because the Pentagon wanted to launch the attack on a moonless night, and the next one after the meeting would come after Mr. Obama’s term had ended.

On Jan. 24, shortly after taking office, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis read the plan and sent it back to the White House with his support. On Jan. 25, Mr. Trump was briefed by his national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, on the plan and on Mr. Mattis’s endorsement.

Mr. Trump summoned Mr. Mattis to dinner at the White House that night, along with Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Mr. Flynn. Also attending were two of Mr. Trump’s closest advisers, Jared Kushner and Stephen K. Bannon, as well as Vice President Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director.

“The operation was laid out in great extent,” Mr. Spicer said. “The indication at that time was to go ahead.”

On Jan. 26, last Thursday, Mr. Trump formally signed the memo authorizing the action, Mr. Spicer said. Mr. Mattis and other aides updated the president on the raid throughout the night Saturday, Mr. Spicer said.

Members of Mr. Obama’s national security team pushed back Thursday at Mr. Spicer’s description of how the former president had set the stage for the decision. They said the attack had not been approved by Mr. Obama, and that materials left for the Trump team emphasized considerable risks.

“Not what happened,” Colin Kahl, the national security adviser to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., wrote on Twitter after Mr. Spicer’s briefing.

Mr. Kahl’s colleagues said that Lisa Monaco, Mr. Obama’s homeland security adviser, told the national security staff in early January that Mr. Obama was not prepared to approve the concept for the raid. Instead, they prepared a memorandum for Mr. Trump’s team that described a variety of options, and underscored the risks.



David Sanger contributed reporting.

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A version of this article appears in print on February 3, 2017, on Page A13 of the New York edition with the headline: White House Defends Deadly Commando Raid on Qaeda Branch in Yemen.

White House Defends Commando Raid on Qaeda Branch in Yemen,
NYT, FEB. 2, 2017,






Trump Pushes Dark View of Islam

to Center of U.S. Policy-Making


FEB. 1, 2017

The New York Times





WASHINGTON — It was at a campaign rally in August that President Trump most fully unveiled the dark vision of an America under siege by “radical Islam” that is now radically reshaping the policies of the United States.

On a stage lined with American flags in Youngstown, Ohio, Mr. Trump, who months before had called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslim immigration, argued that the United States faced a threat on par with the greatest evils of the 20th century. The Islamic State was brutalizing the Middle East, and Muslim immigrants in the West were killing innocents at nightclubs, offices and churches, he said. Extreme measures were needed.

“The hateful ideology of radical Islam,” he told supporters, must not be “allowed to reside or spread within our own communities.”

Mr. Trump was echoing a strain of anti-Islamic theorizing familiar to anyone who has been immersed in security and counterterrorism debates over the last 20 years. He has embraced a deeply suspicious view of Islam that several of his aides have promoted, notably retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, now his national security adviser, and Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s top strategist.

This worldview borrows from the “clash of civilizations” thesis of the political scientist Samuel P. Huntington, and combines straightforward warnings about extremist violence with broad-brush critiques of Islam. It sometimes conflates terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State with largely nonviolent groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots and, at times, with the 1.7 billion Muslims around the world. In its more extreme forms, this view promotes conspiracies about government infiltration and the danger that Shariah, the legal code of Islam, may take over in the United States.

Those espousing such views present Islam as an inherently hostile ideology whose adherents are enemies of Christianity and Judaism and seek to conquer nonbelievers either by violence or through a sort of stealthy brainwashing.

The executive order on immigration that Mr. Trump signed on Friday might be viewed as the first major victory for this geopolitical school. And a second action, which would designate the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist political movement in the Middle East, as a terrorist organization, is now under discussion at the White House, administration officials say.

Beyond the restrictions the order imposed on refugees and visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries, it declared that the United States should keep out those with “hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles” and “those who would place violent ideologies over American law,” clearly a reference to Shariah.

Rejected by most serious scholars of religion and shunned by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, this dark view of Islam has nonetheless flourished on the fringes of the American right since before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. With Mr. Trump’s election, it has now moved to the center of American decision-making on security and law, alarming many Muslims.

Mr. Trump has insisted that the executive order is not a “Muslim ban,” and his supporters say it is a sensible precaution to safeguard Americans. Asked about the seeming antipathy to Islam that appeared to inform the order, the White House pointed to Mr. Trump’s comments in the August speech and on another occasion that signaled support for reform-minded Muslims. His administration, Mr. Trump said in August, “will be a friend to all moderate Muslim reformers in the Middle East, and will amplify their voice.”

James Jay Carafano, a security expert at the Heritage Foundation who advised the Trump transition at the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department, said the executive order was simply “trying to get ahead of the threat.” As pressure increases on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, he said, “tens of thousands of foreign fighters” will flee. Some could try to reach America, perhaps posing as refugees, he said, so stronger vetting of those entering the country is crucial.

But critics see the order as a clumsy show of toughness against foreign Muslims to impress Mr. Trump’s base, one shaped by advisers with distorted ideas about Islam.

“They’re tapping into the climate of fear and suspicion since 9/11,” said Asma Afsaruddin, a professor of Islamic studies at Indiana University and chairwoman of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy. “It’s a master narrative that pits the Muslim world against the West,” appealing to Trump supporters who know nothing of Muslims or Islam beyond news reports of terrorist attacks, she said.

The executive order, she said, will backfire by reinforcing the jihadist line that the United States is at war with Islam. “The White House is a huge soapbox,” she said. “The demonization of Muslims and Islam will become even more widespread.”

Those in the administration with long records of criticizing Islam begin with Mr. Bannon and Mr. Flynn. Mr. Flynn last February tweeted a link to an anti-Muslim video and wrote, “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL.” In an interview, he said that “Islam is not necessarily a religion but a political system that has a religious doctrine behind it.”

Mr. Bannon has spoken passionately about the economic and security dangers of immigration and took the lead role in shaping the immigration order. In a 2014 talk to a meeting at the Vatican, he said the “Judeo-Christian West” is at war with Islam.

“There is a major war brewing, a war that’s already global,” he said. “Every day that we refuse to look at this as what it is, and the scale of it, and really the viciousness of it, will be a day where you will rue that we didn’t act.” Elsewhere, on his radio show for Breitbart News, Mr. Bannon said, “Islam is not a religion of peace — Islam is a religion of submission,” and he warned of Muslim influence in Europe: “To be brutally frank, Christianity is dying in Europe and Islam is on the rise.”

Others with similar views of Islam include Sebastian Gorka, who taught at the National Defense University and is a deputy national security adviser. Mr. Gorka’s wife, Katharine, who headed think tanks that focused on the dangers of Islam, now works at the Department of Homeland Security. Tera Dahl, who was an aide to former Representative Michele Bachmann, Republican of Minnesota, is a National Security Council official. Walid Phares, a Lebanese American Christian who has advised politicians on counterterrorism, advised Mr. Trump’s campaign but does not currently have a government post. All four have written for Breitbart News, the right-wing website previously run by Mr. Bannon.

They all reflect the hard-line opinions of what some have described as the Islamophobia industry, a network of researchers who have warned for many years of the dangers of Islam and were thrilled by Mr. Trump’s election.

They warn about the danger to American freedoms supposedly posed by Islamic law, and have persuaded several state legislatures to prohibit Shariah’s use. It is a claim that draws eye rolls from most Muslims and scholars of Islam, since Muslims make up about 1 percent of the United States population and are hardly in a position to dictate to the other 99 percent.

“The majority of Muslims don’t interpret the Quran literally,” said Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institution. “You can have five Muslims who all say we think this is God’s exact words, but they all disagree with each other on what that means in practice.”

Among the most outspoken of those warning about Islam are Pamela Geller, of Stop Islamization of America, Robert Spencer, of Jihad Watch, and Frank Gaffney Jr., of the Center for Security Policy.

All three were hosted by Mr. Bannon on his Breitbart radio program before he became chief executive of the Trump campaign in August. Mr. Gaffney appeared at least 34 times. His work has often been cited in speeches by Mr. Flynn. Kellyanne Conway, now counselor to Mr. Trump, did polling for Mr. Gaffney’s center. Last year, the center gave Senator Jeff Sessions, who has warned of the “totalitarian threat” posed by radical Islam and is Mr. Trump’s nominee for attorney general, its annual “Keeper of the Flame” award.

Mr. Gaffney has been labeled “one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Anti-Defamation League describes him as a “purveyor of anti-Muslim conspiracy theories.” And even the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual meeting of right-wing politicians and activists, banned Mr. Gaffney temporarily after he accused two of its organizers of being agents of the Muslim Brotherhood.

In an interview, he explained his view of Islam, which focuses less on the violent jihad of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State than on the quieter one he sees everywhere. By his account, potential enemies are hidden in plain sight — praying in mosques, recruiting at Muslim student associations and organizing through mainstream Muslim rights groups — and are engaged in “this stealthy, subversive kind of jihad.”

“They essentially, like termites, hollow out the structure of the civil society and other institutions,” Mr. Gaffney said, “for the purpose of creating conditions under which the jihad will succeed.”

The day after the election, Mr. Gaffney told the Breitbart radio show how pleased he was with Mr. Trump’s win. “It is a great blessing literally from God, but also I think obviously from the candidate himself, Donald Trump,” he said. He praised the “superb people” around Mr. Trump, naming Mr. Bannon and Mr. Flynn, who he said “are actually going to lead us to saving the Republic.”


Correction: February 1, 2017

An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of an Islamic studies professor at Indiana University. She is Asma Afsaruddin, not Asfaruddin.

Trump Pushes Dark View of Islam to Center of U.S. Policy-Making,
NYT, FEB. 1, 2017,






Trump Orders Mexican Border Wall

to Be Built  and Plans to Block

Syrian Refugees


JAN. 25, 2017

The New York Times



WASHINGTON — President Trump on Wednesday began a sweeping crackdown on illegal immigration, ordering the immediate construction of a border wall with Mexico and aggressive efforts to find and deport unauthorized immigrants. He planned additional actions to cut back on legal immigration, including barring Syrian refugees from entering the United States.

At the headquarters of the Department of Homeland Security, Mr. Trump signed a pair of executive orders that paved the way for a border wall and called for a newly expanded force to sweep up immigrants who are in the country illegally. He revived programs that allow the federal government to work with local and state law enforcement agencies to arrest and detain unauthorized immigrants with criminal records and to share information to help track and deport them.

He also planned to clamp down on legal immigration in another action expected as early as Thursday. An eight-page draft of that executive order, obtained by The New York Times, would indefinitely block Syrian refugees from entering the United States and bar all refugees from the rest of the world for at least 120 days.

When the refugee program resumes, it would be much smaller, with the total number of refugees resettled in the United States this year more than halved, to 50,000 from 110,000.

It would also suspend any immigration for at least 30 days from a number of predominantly Muslim countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — while the government toughened its already stringent screening procedures to weed out potential terrorists.

White House officials declined to comment on the coming plan, but in a wide-ranging interview that aired Wednesday on ABC, Mr. Trump acknowledged that it aimed to erect formidable barriers for those seeking refuge in the United States.

“It’s going to be very hard to come in,” Mr. Trump said. “Right now, it’s very easy to come in.”

He also said his administration would “absolutely do safe zones in Syria” to discourage refugees from seeking safety in other countries, and chided Europe and Germany in particular for accepting millions of immigrants. “It’s a disaster, what’s happening there,” Mr. Trump said.

Taken together, the moves would turn the full weight of the federal government to fortifying the United States border, rounding up some of the 11 million people who are in the country illegally and targeting refugees, who are often among the world’s most vulnerable people. It is an aggressive use of presidential power that follows through on the nationalistic vision Mr. Trump presented during his presidential campaign.

“A nation without borders is not a nation,” Mr. Trump said Wednesday at the Department of Homeland Security, where he signed the orders alongside the newly sworn-in secretary, John F. Kelly. “Beginning today, the United States of America gets back control of its borders.”

The plans are a sharp break with former President Barack Obama’s approach and what was once a bipartisan consensus to devise a path to citizenship for some of the nation’s illegal immigrants. Mr. Obama, however, angered many immigrant groups by deporting millions of unauthorized workers, largely during his first term.

But Mr. Trump, whose campaign rallies were filled with chants from his supporters of “build the wall,” has vowed to go much further. He has often described unauthorized immigrants as criminals who must be found and forcibly removed from the United States, as he did again on Wednesday.

“We are going to get the bad ones out — the criminals and the drug dealers and gangs and gang members,” Mr. Trump said. “The day is over when they can stay in our country and wreak havoc. We are going to get them out, and we are going to get them out fast.”

The president had invited the families of people killed by unauthorized immigrants to watch him sign the orders alongside Homeland Security employees, and he asked each of them to stand in turn, telling of the deaths of their relatives, which he said had inspired his policies.

“We hear you, we see you, and you will never, ever be ignored again,” Mr. Trump said, contending that they had been “victimized by open borders.”

The immigration orders drew furious condemnation from civil rights and religious groups as well as immigrant advocacy organizations. The groups described them as meanspirited, counterproductive and costly and said the new policies would raise constitutional concerns while undermining the American tradition of welcoming people from around the world.

“They’re setting out to unleash this deportation force on steroids, and local police will be able to run wild, so we’re tremendously concerned about the impact that could have on immigrants and families across the country,” said Joanne Lin, senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union. “After today’s announcement, the fear quotient is going to go up exponentially.”

Lynn Tramonte, the deputy director of America’s Voice Education Fund, an immigration advocacy group, said Mr. Trump was “wasting no time taking a wrecking ball to the Statue of Liberty.” She called the orders “a dramatic, radical and extreme assault on immigrants and the values of our country.”

The orders also rankled officials in countries around the world. President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico, who had planned to travel to Washington next week to meet with Mr. Trump, let it be known that he was considering canceling his trip, senior Mexican officials said.

Mr. Trump has claimed that Mexico will ultimately pay for the wall, but officials there have repeatedly said they have no intention of doing so.

Conservative organizations in the United States and some Republican lawmakers praised Mr. Trump’s moves, saying they would usher in overdue enforcement of crucial homeland security laws that Mr. Obama had refused to carry out.

“This looks like a return to enforcing the immigration laws, which is something that President Obama strayed from and has not been prioritized in a very long time,” said Tommy Binion, the director of policy outreach at the conservative-aligned Heritage Foundation. “To have President Trump focus on the problems immigration is bringing us as a nation is a relief. Finally, we have a government that recognizes the tragedies that we’re facing.”

Mr. Trump will not be able to accomplish the goals laid out in the immigration orders by himself. Congress would have to appropriate new funding for the construction of a wall, which some have estimated could cost tens of billions of dollars. Nonetheless, Mr. Trump directed federal agencies to use existing funds as a start to the wall and formally called for the hiring of an additional 5,000 Border Patrol agents and 10,000 immigration officers.

The order would threaten the nation’s roughly three dozen sanctuary cities — jurisdictions that limit their cooperation with federal authorities seeking to detain unauthorized immigrants — with losing federal grant money if they do not comply with such requests.

At the same time, Mr. Trump is reviving a program called Secure Communities, ended by the Obama administration, in which federal officials use digital fingerprints shared by local law enforcement departments to find and deport immigrants who commit crimes.

The provisions are chilling to many immigration advocates, who argued that they could sweep up unauthorized immigrants beyond the criminals Mr. Trump says he wants to target. Among those listed as priorities for removal are those who have “engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency,” which would essentially include any undocumented worker who has signed an employment agreement in the United States.

The order also includes a section that directs federal agencies to adjust their privacy policies to exclude unauthorized immigrants, in effect allowing the sharing of their personal identifying information, which could be used to track and apprehend them.

“With today’s sweeping and constitutionally suspect executive actions, the president is turning his back on both our history and our values as a proud nation of immigrants,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader. “Wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on a border wall Mexico will never pay for, and punishing cities that do not want their local police forces forced to serve as President Trump’s deportation dragnet, does nothing to fix our immigration system or keep Americans safe.”

The order on refugees is in line with a Muslim ban that Mr. Trump proposed during the campaign, though it does not single out any particular religion. It orders the secretary of state and the secretary of Homeland Security to prioritize those who are persecuted members of religious minorities, essentially ensuring that Christians living in predominantly Muslim countries would be at the top of the list.

“In order to protect Americans,” the order states, “we must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward our country and its founding principles.”

It says that for the time being, admitting anyone from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen is “detrimental to the interests of the United States.”


Azam Ahmed contributed reporting from Mexico City.

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A version of this article appears in print on January 26, 2017, on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Trump Rolls Out His Crackdown on Immigration.

Trump Orders Mexican Border Wall to Be Built
and Plans to Block Syrian Refugees,
JAN. 25, 2017






Trump Issues Executive Order

Scaling Back Parts of Obamacare


JAN. 20, 2017

The New York Times




WASHINGTON — In his first executive order, President Trump on Friday directed government agencies to scale back as many aspects of the Affordable Care Act as possible, moving within hours of being sworn in to fulfill his pledge to eviscerate Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

The one-page order, which Mr. Trump signed in a hastily arranged Oval Office ceremony shortly before departing for the inaugural balls, gave no specifics about which aspects of the law it was targeting. But its broad language gave federal agencies wide latitude to change, delay or waive provisions of the law that they deemed overly costly for insurers, drug makers, doctors, patients or states, suggesting that it could have wide-ranging impact, and essentially allowing the dismantling of the law to begin even before Congress moves to repeal it.

The order states what Mr. Trump made clear during his campaign: that it is his administration’s policy to seek the “prompt repeal” of the law, which has come to be known as Obamacare. But he and Republicans on Capitol Hill have not yet devised a replacement, making such action unlikely in the immediate term.

“In the meantime,” the order said, “pending such repeal, it is imperative for the executive branch to ensure that the law is being efficiently implemented, take all actions consistent with law to minimize the unwarranted economic and regulatory burdens of the act, and prepare to afford the states more flexibility and control to create a more free and open health care market.”

The order has symbolic as well as substantive significance, allowing Mr. Trump to claim he acted immediately to do away with a health care law he has repeatedly called disastrous, even while it remains in place and he navigates the politically perilous process of repealing and replacing it.

Using the phrase “to the maximum extent permitted by law,” the order directs federal agencies to move decisively to implement changes, including granting flexibility that insurers and states had long implored the Obama administration to provide.

It also instructs them to work to create a system that allows the sale of health insurance across state lines, which Republicans have long proposed as the centerpiece of an alternative to the law.

“This action demonstrates that President Trump is committed to fixing the damage caused by Obamacare as soon as possible,” said Senator John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming.

The order does not direct the Department of Health and Human Services to ease any particular aspect of the 2010 law, but it could result in a substantial weakening of one of its central features: the so-called “individual mandate” that requires most Americans to have health insurance or pay a tax penalty.

While the Obama administration allowed “hardship exemptions” to the mandate, the Trump administration could conceivably interpret the requirement in a more lenient way, so that more people would not be penalized.

Likewise, federal officials could be more receptive to state requests for waivers under Medicaid, the federal-state program that covers more than 70 million low-income people. A number of Republican governors and state legislators would like to charge higher premiums or co-payments than are now allowed. Some states want to provide a less generous, less expensive package of benefits, or require some able-bodied adults to engage in work activities as a condition of receiving Medicaid.

Still, while Mr. Trump’s directive allows officials to take steps that increase costs for consumers, that result is not inevitable. Indeed, the order says officials should try to reduce costs and burdens on consumers.

Over the last six years, insurance company executives have bitterly complained that federal insurance regulations were extremely prescriptive and onerous. By relaxing some of those rules, the Trump administration could make the individual insurance market more attractive to insurers. And insurers might then be more willing to stay in or return to the public marketplaces established under the Affordable Care Act.

In the last year, a number of insurers have dropped out of those markets, leaving consumers with fewer health plans to choose from.

House Republican leaders recently asked governors for recommendations on health policy, and governors from both parties said the federal government should scale back its regulation of health insurance.

Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee, a Republican, said this month that federal officials should “reconsider the premise that health insurance public policy should be directed from Washington.” He said that federal rules for setting insurance rates and defining “essential health benefits” should be more flexible.


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A version of this article appears in print on January 21, 2017, on Page A20 of the New York edition with the headline: Trump Issues Executive Order to Scale Back Parts of Health Care Law.

Trump Issues Executive Order Scaling Back Parts of Obamacare,
Jan. 20, 2017,






Donald Trump

Is Sworn In as President,

Capping His Swift Ascent


JAN. 20, 2017

The New York Times




WASHINGTON — Donald John Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States on Friday, ushering in a new era that he vowed would shatter the established order and reverse a national decline that he called “this American carnage.”

In a ceremony that capped a remarkable rise to power, Mr. Trump presented himself as the leader of a populist uprising to restore lost greatness. He outlined a dark vision of an America afflicted by “the ravages” of economic dislocation and foreign exploitation, requiring his can-do approach to turn around.

“I will fight for you with every breath in my body, and I will never, ever let you down,” Mr. Trump told hundreds of thousands of rain-soaked admirers and onlookers in a forceful 16-minute Inaugural Address from the West Front of the Capitol. “America will start winning again, winning like never before. We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.”

Mr. Trump’s ascension amounted to a hostile takeover of a capital facing its most significant disruption in generations. While officially a Republican, he has taken on leaders of both parties and, with no prior political career of his own, made clear that he saw himself as the ultimate outsider not beholden to the current system.

“We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action, constantly complaining but never doing anything about it,” he said. “The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action. Do not allow anyone to tell you that it cannot be done.”

Mr. Trump’s view of the United States was strikingly grim for an Inaugural Address — a country where mothers and children are “trapped in poverty in our inner cities,” where “rusted-out factories” are “scattered like tombstones across the landscape” and where drugs and crime “have stolen too many lives.”

“This American carnage,” he declared, “stops right here and stops right now.”

He got started right away with rolling back the policies of his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, by issuing orders freezing new regulations from recent weeks and ordering agencies to “ease the burden” of the Affordable Care Act during the transition from repealing to replacing the law. More orders are planned for next week.

Wearing a dark suit and red tie and accompanied by his wife, Melania, in a powder-blue suit and matching gloves, Mr. Trump took the 35-word oath administered by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. precisely at noon. Michael Richard Pence, a former governor and congressman from Indiana, was sworn in minutes before as vice president by Justice Clarence Thomas.

Mr. Trump assumed the presidency of a country still unsettled after a polarizing election and entered office with less support in polls than any other president in recent history. It was clear from the day that there would be no grace period either for or by the new president. The Senate confirmed two cabinet nominations — James N. Mattis as defense secretary and John F. Kelly as secretary of homeland security — but Democrats temporarily held up Mike Pompeo’s confirmation as C.I.A. director.

Throughout the day, there were mostly peaceful protests against the new president. Sporadic violence broke out as demonstrators smashed shop windows and burned a limousine, while police officers in riot helmets responded with tear gas. More than 200 people were arrested. Liberal groups prepared for a women’s march on Saturday that they said could draw hundreds of thousands.

Mr. Trump made only passing efforts to reach out to Democrats beyond thanking Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, for their handling of the transition. “They have been magnificent,” he said in his speech.

He later praised his defeated opponent, Hillary Clinton, at a lobster-and-beef luncheon with congressional leaders, asking her and former President Bill Clinton to stand for applause. “I have a lot of respect for these two people,” he said.
Trump’s Inauguration vs. Obama’s: Comparing the Crowds

Estimates put the crowd gathered for President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration at far less than President Obama’s in 2009.

Democrats were not impressed. “I was pretty shocked by how dark it was,” Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, said of Mr. Trump’s Inaugural Address. “I love this country, and I don’t understand how a president of the United States that loves his country could paint a picture of its failures.”

He added, “It was interesting sitting up onstage with a bunch of billionaires hearing him say how bad the country was.”

The National Mall was filled with supporters, many wearing “Make America Great Again” hats and chanting “Trump! Trump! Trump!” But the lingering animosity from the presidential campaign was on display, too. When Mrs. Clinton arrived, some in the crowd chanted, “Lock her up,” mimicking Mr. Trump’s campaign rallies. As he took the oath, a cluster of people blew whistles and screamed, “Not my president,” before being escorted out.

While large, the crowds on a soggy day did not rival the energetic throngs at Mr. Obama’s first inauguration eight years ago, according to aerial photographs. The Washington Metrorail system recorded fewer than half as many rides on Friday morning as in 2009, and knots of bystanders along the inaugural parade route were not as thick. In a city that gave just 4 percent of its vote to Mr. Trump, many residents left town and about 60 House Democrats boycotted the event.

Mr. Obama made his exit after the ceremony, flying by helicopter to Joint Base Andrews in the Maryland suburbs, where he thanked former aides and members of his administration before boarding the presidential jet, no longer designated Air Force One, to fly to Palm Springs, Calif., for vacation. He will return to Washington to a rental house while his daughter Sasha finishes high school, the first president to stay in the capital since Woodrow Wilson.

Hours before his departure, Mr. Obama posted on Twitter to thank followers and hint that he would not fade away. “I won’t stop,” he said. “I’ll be right there with you as a citizen, inspired by your voices of truth and justice, good humor, and love.”

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his wife, Jill, rode an Amtrak train to Delaware and the home they have there. But they, too, planned to return, at least part time, to Washington, where Mrs. Biden teaches at a community college in the Virginia suburbs.

The United States has never seen a president quite like Mr. Trump, the son and grandson of immigrants who grew up to become a real estate magnate, casino owner, beauty pageant operator and reality television star whose tumultuous love life played out in the tabloids.

Never has the oath been administered to a president who had never served either in public office or as a general in the military. At age 70, Mr. Trump became the oldest president sworn in for the first time and the first born in New York since Franklin D. Roosevelt.

He was also one of the wealthiest presidents ever to enter the White House, with far-reaching business connections that have already raised questions about where his interests end and the country’s begin. He arrived in the Oval Office dogged by reports about Russian interference in the election on his behalf.

But Mr. Trump overcame skeptics when he embarked on what seemed like a quixotic bid for the presidency. An Ivy League-educated mogul who lives in a New York tower named after himself with an 80-foot-long living room, he transformed himself into the unlikely leader of a working-class movement anchored in rural areas far removed from the coasts.

His bracing candor, disregard for convention and willingness to offend whole sections of the population to make a point came across as refreshing truth-telling to many Americans disenchanted with Washington elites.

For the nation’s 58th inauguration, though, the untraditional president opted to follow tradition. He and Mrs. Trump, a former model from Slovenia who became the first foreign-born first lady since John Quincy Adams’s wife, Louisa, started the day with a service at St. John’s Episcopal Church adjacent to Lafayette Square, then joined the Obamas, Bidens and Pences for coffee at the White House.

From there, the two presidents shared a limousine to the Capitol, where three other presidents waited: Mr. Clinton, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush, all of whom opposed Mr. Trump’s election. Former President George Bush remained hospitalized in Houston, recovering from pneumonia, but a spokesman said he watched the ceremony on television.

Mr. Pence, 57, was sworn in at 11:54 a.m., placing his hand on Ronald Reagan’s Bible, which was held by his wife, Karen, as their three adult children, Michael, Charlotte and Audrey, watched.

For his oath, Mr. Trump placed his hand on two Bibles held by his wife, one given him by his mother in 1955 just before his ninth birthday and another used by Abraham Lincoln in 1861 and again by Mr. Obama in 2009 and 2013.

Standing nearby were his adult children from two previous marriages, Donald Jr., Eric, Ivanka and Tiffany. Also there was Barron, his 10-year-old son with the first lady. Joining them was Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner, who will serve as an unpaid senior adviser.

As Mr. Trump approached the podium, rain began to fall. It was not a conventionally Republican speech, with nothing about tax cuts or restraining government. Instead, he laid out a protectionist agenda, saying his rule will be “buy American and hire American.” He did pledge to “eradicate from the face of the Earth” Islamic terrorism. Responding to charges that he demonized Mexicans and Muslims, Mr. Trump said, “There is no room for prejudice.”

Mr. Trump said the inauguration was not merely the transfer of power from one president to another. “We are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people,” he said.

“For too long,” he continued, “a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished but the people did not share in the wealth.” He added, “That all changes starting right here and right now.”


Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Thomas Kaplan and Katie Rogers contributed reporting.

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A version of this article appears in print on January 21, 2017, on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Trump, Sworn In, Issues a Call: ‘This American Carnage Stops’.

Donald Trump Is Sworn In as President,
Capping His Swift Ascent,
Jan. 20, 2017,





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