Obama breaks silence, speaks out on Trump travel ban

In a rare move for a former president who left office so recently, Barack Obama praised those protesting President Trump's immigration ban.

Stephanie Keith/Reuters
People participate in a protest against President Donald Trump's travel ban at Columbia University in New York City on Monday.

Former President Barack Obama says he is “heartened” by the outpouring of support for immigrants and refugees that manifested in nationwide protests against President Trump’s executive immigration order over the weekend.

In his final news conference earlier this month, Mr. Obama said he would voice his opinion on Mr. Trump’s actions only during “certain moments where I think our core values may be at stake,” noting that he wanted to grant Trump the same room to govern that former President George W. Bush left to him in 2009. While the two have been fierce critics of one another in the past, Obama and Trump became more civil publicly in weeks following the election, as Obama said he wanted to ensure a smooth, peaceful transition between the two leaders.

But less than two weeks into Trump’s presidency, the former president's silence came to an end, as he called Trump's immigration order an affront to American values.

"The president fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion," Obama's spokesman Kevin Lewis said in a statement Monday. He also said that the former president felt "heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country."

Divisions between Democrats and the Trump administration further increased over the weekend after the president signed an executive order Friday barring immigrants from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen from entering the country. He also placed a four-month ban on admitting new refugees to the United States.

The order drew thousands to protest at airports around the nation Saturday evening, where Homeland Security officials had detained visa and green-card holders or sent them on flights back to other countries.

While Obama did not weigh in on the executive order directly, he praised the protesters who gathered peacefully to express their First Amendment rights.

"Citizens exercising their constitutional right to assemble, organize and have their voices heard by their elected officials is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake," Mr. Lewis said.

The comments are largely unprecedented in modern politics, but so was Trump’s first week in office, which was marked by the signing of several controversial executive orders.

“I don’t think it’s very common at all for an ex-president to be commenting on the performance of his successor,” presidential historian Robert Dallek told The Washington Post. “This current incumbent is so out of sync with what the normal behavior of a president is that it calls for ex-presidents to respond.”

The former president also took a stance on comparisons between the orders and his own foreign policy. Trump says he chose the seven countries after the Obama administration identified them as hotbeds for terrorism recruiting and crafted a travel ban that mirrors a pause in Iraqi refugee processing taken under Obama.

But Lewis denied the similarities, noting that Obama's designation related strictly to eligibility to enter the United States without a visa and was much more narrow in scope.

This report contains material from Reuters and the Associated Press.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Obama breaks silence, speaks out on Trump travel ban
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today