The Trump administration continues to be mired in scandal. On Monday, President Trump signed his second sweeping immigration Executive Order, now barring entry to the United States to citizens from six predominantly Muslim countries. Meanwhile, Attorney General (AG) Jeff Sessions officially recused himself from the Russia inquiry and any further investigation into potential Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Trump has been busy trying to refute alleged ties to Russia by creating allegations against House Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). He resurfaced old pictures of the two meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Russian President Vladimir Putin respectively, and is calling for an investigation into the Democrats for their ties to Russia. He then accused former President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower in the months leading up to the election without offering any evidence.
Trump’s new immigration plan will block the issuing of new visas for six of the seven previously banned countries, now including Libya, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Yemen, and Somalia. The ban will not affect visas that are currently valid and Iraq is no longer banned. The order also allows certain people within those countries to apply for waivers to the order, such as those who have previously worked or studied in the United States and those seeking to visit or live with family. While AG Jeff Sessions referred to the new ban as “lawful,” it caused Democrats and civil liberties groups concerns. They hold that the order is as legally problematic as the first and is still a veiled Muslim ban. Karen Tumlin, Legal Director of the National Immigration Law Center, believes that the federal judges who blocked Trump’s first ban are likely to do so again.
In the midst of this, Trump dropped a bombshell accusation on former president Obama, claiming that he authorized a wiretap in Trump Tower before the recent election. He offered no evidence to back his claim, but some believe he may have been referencing a Breitbart article that has been circulating through the White House. Former press secretary of the Obama administration, Josh Earnest, told ABC that “This may come as a surprise to the current occupant of the Oval Office, but the president of the United States does not have the authority to unilaterally order the wiretapping of an American citizen.” While Trump continues to deny any ties to Russia, his cabinet members seem to contradict his stance and thus necessitate further investigations into Russia’s role in the election. A new CNN/ORC poll demonstrates that 65% of Americans want a special prosecutor to handle the investigation into Russia, while 55% of Americans are at least somewhat concerned about the potential connections between Russian officials and Trump officials.
Some think Trump is foolish to push this narrative, like Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who said that Trump is “in trouble” regardless of the validity of his claim. If no evidence is found of wiretapping in Trump Tower, then the President is spreading misinformation and lying to the public. If these claims are true then “that means that a federal judge, independently elected, has found probable cause that the president, or people on his staff, have probable cause to have broken the law or to have interacted with a foreign agent.” As of now, no evidence exists to substantiate Trump’s claim. Republican Representative and House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz said that “thus far I have not seen anything directly that would support what the president has said.” For the allegation to be true, there must be a paper trail. And there is none. Trump is treading in dangerous waters.
I’ll be watching to see what happens with the courts in the very near future. Will they shoot down Trump’s new Executive Order? My guess is that they very well may. When it is broken down to its core, the new order is fundamentally a ban on people of a specific religious/ethnic identity. That is unacceptable. It makes me sick to see a large portion of America subjecting billions of people to the labels of “dangerous” and “radical” because of the actions of a few. We do not make generalizations when people commit crimes in the name of Christianity or white supremacy, yet we do when individuals commit crimes in the name of Islam.
Trump may regret accusing Obama of inappropriate surveillance. Trump only draws attention to himself by trying to deflect his potential Russian ties. Accusing Democrats as having Russian ties and attacking Obama inadvertently puts Trump under the spotlight. That is because he will either be exposed as a liar, or, if a judge did authorize a wiretap, it will show that there was sufficient evidence of possible collusion in the first place. This would backfire on Trump and deepen the suspicion that he may have Russian connections. It is unclear what the immediate consequences will be, whether or not evidence is found, but I’m very curious to find out. The President’s future could be at stake.
By Henry Clarke, NYU Florence student