Weekend open thread: Threats to national security edition

What’s on your mind, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

Only one week into Donald Trump’s presidency, the outrages are piling up. Philip Rucker and David Filipov report today for the Washington Post that Trump has restructured the National Security Council to give his political strategist Steve Bannon a permanent spot on the “principals committee” of senior officials. Meanwhile, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence will no longer be regular members of that committee. President George W. Bush never allowed his hatchet man Karl Rove to attend National Security Council meetings.

Trump issued several executive orders this week related to immigration. The most controversial (and probably unconstitutional) one restricts entry from seven countries–but maybe not for Christians from those areas. Despite the trending hashtag #MuslimBan, the order is technically not a ban on Muslims entering the U.S.–though Rudy Giuliani says Trump asked advisers to help him accomplish that goal through legal means. The White House is portraying the order as an anti-terrorism measure, but knowledgeable people know otherwise.

Greg Jaffe reported for the Washington Post,

“The optic of this is really awful,” said Nada Bakos, a former CIA analyst, of the refu­gee ban. “What they’ve done goes too far. All it does is help [Islamic State] recruiting.” […]

The executive order on immigration and refugees was produced at a “frenetic pace” that included none of the interagency reviews that characterized similar orders in the Bush and Obama administrations, a senior U.S. counterterrorism official said.

“The process was remarkable,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal deliberations. “Nobody in the counterterrorism community pushed for this. None of us ever asked for it.”

Trump described the order as a key cog in an effort to prevent terrorists from entering the United States, but the policy does not affect countries such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or Egypt, whose citizens have launched terrorist attacks inside the United States. Not one of the 19 hijackers who struck on 9/11 came from a country targeted by the order.

The Washington Post’s Rosalind Helderman noticed,

The seven nations targeted for new visitation restrictions by President Trump on Friday all have something in common: They are places he does not appear to have any business interests.

The executive order he signed Friday bars all entry for the next 90 days by travelers from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya. Excluded from the lists are several majority-Muslim nations where the Trump Organization is active and which in some cases have also faced troublesome issues with terrorism. […]

Trump’s order makes no mention of Turkey, which has faced several terrorist attacks in recent months. On Wednesday, the State Department updated a travel warning for Americans visiting Turkey, noting that “an increase in anti-American rhetoric has the potential to inspire independent actors to carry out acts of violence against US citizens.”

Trump has licensed his name to two luxury towers in Istanbul. A Turkish company also manufactures a line of Trump-branded home furnishings. Trump’s most recent financial disclosure, filed in May when he was a presidential candidate, showed that he had earned as much as $6 million in the previous year from the deals. […]

Also untouched by Friday’s ­executive order is the United Arab Emirates, a powerful Muslim ally with whom the United States ­nevertheless has complicated ­relations. Trump has licensed his name to a Dubai golf resort, as well as a luxury home ­development and spa.

Some of the first people to be detained at U.S. airports under that order included Iraqis who had helped the U.S.military.

Federal courts have put a stay on the executive order, but some Customs and Border Protection officers are not allowing detained people to speak to immigration lawyers, in violation of court rulings. As legal commentator Steven Mazie observed, “This is what we call a constitutional crisis.”

We’re not even ten days into Trump’s presidency.

Iowa residents affected by this executive order, including those on green cards and student visas as well as those with refugee status, should contact the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa for legal advice and assistance. Please get in touch with me if you have a story to share, on or off the record. (My contact information is near the lower right corner of this screen.)

I have sought comment on this executive order from all of our state’s representatives in Congress, but so far only Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02) has issued a statement.

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack released the following statement regarding President Trump’s executive order that impacts those fleeing persecution, families that have already been granted refugee status, legal permanent residents, and visa holders. Loebsack’s office also stands ready to assist any Iowan who is having troubles because of this executive order. Iowans who are in need of assistance can call toll-free 1-866-914-IOWA (4692) to speak with someone about their situation.

“This executive order signed by President Trump is shameful and flies in the face of America’s values of being a welcoming place to those who are fleeing oppression. His actions fail to anticipate any unintended consequences, which put Americans at risk and gives fodder to our enemies. It also destroys the very bedrock of what our nation has stood for- life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This dangerous order must be rescinded.

“I am thankful that our independent judiciary system stepped in and halted part of the executive order, but now it is time for them to go further and put a stop to this misguided action. We cannot allow families to be torn apart. If there is anyone who is in need of assistance, please do not hesitate to be in touch with my office.”

I’m seeking tips on any Iowa Republican elected official or party leader at the local or state level who has questioned or criticized the executive order. One friend described this effort as a “unicorn hunt,” but I’m hopeful some principled conservatives and moderates will reject Trump’s approach. I don’t expect any leadership on this front from Governor Terry Branstad or Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, though. Branstad was among those who demagogued in 2015 about dangers posed by allowing Syrian refugees into the country.

Many Democrats have already spoken out, including Iowa Senate Minority Leader Rob Hogg, who stood in front of Mother Mosque in Cedar Rapids on Saturday with former presidential candidate Martin O’Malley, State Representative Liz Bennett, and Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker. O’Malley described the ““emperor-like edict” as “appalling conduct” that “is unbecoming of the presidency and the people of the United States.”

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller joined counterparts from fifteen other states in this statement, released today by Eric Schneiderman of New York:


Joint Statement Issued By A.G.’s of NY, CA, PA, WA, MA, HI, VA, OR, DC, CT, VT, IL, NM, IA, ME & MD

“As the chief legal officers for over 130 million Americans and foreign residents of our states, we condemn President Trump’s unconstitutional, un-American and unlawful Executive Order and will work together to ensure the federal government obeys the Constitution, respects our history as a nation of immigrants, and does not unlawfully target anyone because of their national origin or faith.

Religious liberty has been, and always will be, a bedrock principle of our country and no president can change that truth.

Yesterday, multiple federal courts ordered a stay of the Administration’s dangerous Executive Order. We applaud those decisions and will use all of the tools of our offices to fight this unconstitutional order and preserve our nation’s national security and core values.

We are confident that the Executive Order will ultimately be struck down by the courts. In the meantime, we are committed to working to ensure that as few people as possible suffer from the chaotic situation that it has created.”

I’ll update this post as needed.

UPDATE: Should have mentioned that Representative Steve King posted on Twitter on January 28, “@realDonaldTrump today temporarily blocked Obama led hijrah to the U.S. It may be too late for Europe b/c of Merkel.”

As usual, Representative David Young’s office did not reply to my inquiry. However, the Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble received this comment:

The principle [sic] role of the federal government is to keep the United States and her people safe. The President’s 90-day executive order is similar to a bill passed in an overwhelmingly bi-partisan fashion in the House of Representatives, which I supported in 2015–to pause emigration from certain countries known to foster and export terrorism until a more stringent vetting and background check process can be put in place to help ensure those wanting to harm Americans do not make their way to our shores. President Obama placed a similar pause on refugees coming from Iraq in 2011 in order to better protect Americans.

America continues to be a beacon of great hope. We are a generous nation and have welcomed those from abroad who are escaping war and oppression and we will continue to aid and be welcoming to those seeking refuge and asylum fleeing from countries void of American values and principles. But we need to be extra cautious and vigilant to protect Americans, especially given the fact terrorists have said they seek to exploit our refugee program to harm Americans.

Senator Chuck Grassley hasn’t commented on Twitter, nor have his staff posted any statement on his website, but his office sent Noble the following:

National security is the number one responsibility of the federal government, and keeping terrorists out of the United States must be a top priority. The goals of the executive order are commendable, and something President Trump promised during the campaign, but implementation will be key to ensuring the bad guys are kept out while remaining a welcoming nation to people of all backgrounds and religions.

Senator Joni Ernst sent this to Noble:

We are a welcoming nation, a nation of immigrants – of all religions and from countries across the world. But we must be vigilant in our efforts to ensure the protection of our homeland.

As I have said previously, I believe it is prudent to take the time necessary to reassess the quality and adequacy of the vetting processes we rely on for our refugee and visa programs.With respect to the President’s Executive Order, there must be more clarity surrounding the order’s implementation. In our efforts to protect our nation from ISIS, we also must ensure we are not inadvertently penalizing our allies in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism – especially those who have supported U.S. military efforts in Iraq.

Moreover, we must ultimately address the underlying cause of the current humanitarian crisis by devising and executing a successful strategy to destroy our ISIS enemy.

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