Former US president Barack Obama broke his post-White House silence Monday to join the growing chorus against his successor’s contentious travel ban on seven Muslim-majority nations, rejecting suggestions that the move could be traced back to his own administration.
Acting attorney general Sally Yates, an Obama appointee, had instructed lawyers of the department of justice to not defend President Donald Trump’s order, which is being challenged in courts across the country. With Trump firing her late on Monday, Dana Boente — US attorney for the eastern district of Virginia — will fill in until senator Jeff Sessions is confirmed by the senate.
But opposition to his order goes deeper. Officials at the state department – career diplomats with unverifiable political affiliations – pushed back against the order, officially signing a dissent note arguing that the directive could imperil relations with the targeted countries. And protestors continued to throng international airports across the country.
In an executive order signed Friday, Trump banned citizens of seven countries — Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya — from entering the US for 90 days. He also banned the entry of all refugees for 120 days, but indefinitely for those from Syria – a country torn apart by a devastating civil war, as depicted in heart-rending social media posts by seven-year-old Bana al-Abed.
Trump sought to deflect blame in the face of all-around outrage by claiming that the Obama administration had also slapped a visa ban on Iraqis. He also alleged that the previous government had identified seven countries – the same ones he blacklisted – as sources of terror.
Obama, who had warned that he would speak up whenever the country’s fundamental values are threatened, spoke up on Monday – just 10 days into retirement. “With regard to comparisons to President Obama’s foreign policy decisions, as we’ve heard before, the president fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion,” a spokesman of the former premier said in a statement.
Trump has claimed that his travel restrictions have nothing to do with religion, and is doing everything to prevent it from being defined as a “Muslim ban”.