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Morning Reads: Is Jeff Sessions Real Ideological Force Behind Refugee Ban? Trump Fires Acting AG Who Would Not Enforce

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Morning Reads: Senate Votes on Jeff Sessions


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Sessions –> The nomination of Jeff Sessions as attorney general is being voted on by the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning. In The Washington Post, Philip Rucker and Robert Costa report that in reality, Sessions is the ideological force behind much of Trump’s white nationalist agenda. Steve Bannon, widely seen as the Svengali pushing the agenda within the White House, told The Post that Sessions is the administration’s “clearinghouse for policy and philosophy.”

“Monday night massacre” –> Sally Yates, a holdover from the Obama administration who was acting attorney general until Sessions could step into the role, was fired last night, The Guardian reports, “after she told Justice Department lawyers not to defend [Trump’s] executive order banning entry for people from seven Muslim-majority countries. The White House said on Monday that Sally Yates had ‘betrayed’ the department by refusing to enforce a legal order that was ‘designed to protect the citizens of the United States.'” In a statement, Yates said she was “not convinced that the executive order is lawful.” Trump appointed Dana Boente, US attorney for the eastern district of Virginia, to briefly take over as acting AG.

Here’s a stunning irony. Brad Plumer writes for Vox that in 2015, when Sally Yates was confirmed as deputy attorney general, a certain senator asked her, “Do you think the attorney general has a responsibility to say no to the president if he asks for something that’s improper? … If the views that the president wants to execute are unlawful, should the attorney general or the deputy attorney general say no?” Yates replied that the attorney general should indeed stand up to the president in such a situation, and yesterday she did.

The senator to whom she made that promise? Jeff Sessions — attorney general-to-be and the man who apparently had a role in writing the order she felt was illegal. Check out the video at the top of today’s Morning Reads.

Trump also replaced Daniel Ragsdale, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), part of the Department of Homeland Security, and named Thomas Homan as his replacement. Christina Wilkie at The Huffington Post reports that the change comes “following a chaotic weekend during which DHS customs officials struggled to interpret and comply with Trump’s controversial executive order barring travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries.”

“.. By promoting Homan, who most recently led the arm of ICE that enforces detentions and deportations, the Trump administration signaled its intent to place a greater emphasis on the harsh enforcement measures that Homan carried out.”

Flood the zone –> In addition to Sessions, a host of other votes are scheduled for today that will advance Trump’s nominees beyond Senate committees to the Senate floor, where they will receive a final vote. On the list for committee votes are Rick Perry for the Department of Energy, Ryan Zinke for Interior, Tom Price for Health and Human Services, Betsy DeVos for Education and Steve Mnuchin for the Treasury Department. Elaine Chao and Rex Tillerson may also receive full Senate votes on their respective nominations as secretary of transportation and secretary of state.

Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer announced yesterday that, in the wake of Trump’s immigration ban, he will oppose most of Trump’s nominations, including Sessions — a decision that Michelle Goldberg at Slate attributes to pressure from his constituents. In what may or may not be a metaphor, Graham Vyse reports for The New Republic that Democrats held a rally against Trump yesterday on the Supreme Court steps, but struggled to get their sound system working. In a surprise development, Donald Trump made fun of them on Twitter…

Back from vacation –> President Obama spoke out against Trump’s immigration ban yesterday, Julie Hirschfeld Davis writes for The New York Times: “‘President Obama is heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country,’ a spokesperson for Obama said of weekend protests. ‘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.’ The spokesperson said Obama ‘fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.'”

White House jumps to conclusions –> A mass shooting at a mosque in Quebec City on Sunday night killed 6 people and injured 8. “Almost immediately,” write Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain at The Intercept, “various news outlets and political figures depicted the shooter as Muslim.” White House press secretary Sean Spicer used this speculation to justify Trump’s immigration ban, saying it was a “reminder of why we must remain vigilant and why the president is taking steps to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to our nation’s safety and security.”

The problem is, it wasn’t true. “The suspect is neither Moroccan nor Muslim,” Greenwald and Hussain report. “The Moroccan individual, Mohamed Belkhadir, was actually one of the worshippers at the mosque and called 911 to summon the police, and played no role whatsoever in the shooting. The actual shooting suspect is 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette, a white French Canadian who is, by all appearances, a rabid anti-immigrant nationalist.”

LGBTQ order stays in effect –> David Badash at The New Civil Rights Movement: “Less than 24 hours after news broke that the President Donald Trump was planning to sign an executive order rolling back all of President Barack Obama’s 2014 executive orders protecting workers from anti-LGBT discrimination, the White House issued a statement announcing they will remain in place. ‘President Donald J. Trump Will Continue to Enforce Executive Order Protecting the Rights of the LGBTQ Community in the Workplace,’ the White House statement, sent to NCRM early Tuesday morning, reads.”

Morning Reads was compiled by John Light and edited by Michael Winship. See a story that you think should be included in Morning Reads? Tell us in the comments!



We produce this news digest every weekday. You can sign up to receive these updates as an email newsletter each morning.