A wall, a ban, and a whole lot of backlash
Story by Matthew Parks, Staff writer
Rex W. Tillerson, was confirmed on Wednesday as the 69th secretary of state with a 56 to 43 vote. Tillerson is the former chairman and chief executive of Exxon Mobil Corp.
His confirmation comes after days of opposition from members of Congress, who are concerned about Tillerson’s history with Russia. Tillerson was given Russia’s Order of Friendship award in 2013 after signing oil deals with the state-owned oil company.
Also this week, President Trump officially nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court to replace Antonin Scalia who passed away last year.
Gorsuch is a conservative appellate judge from Colorado who, if confirmed, would balance the political ideologies of the court with four conservative-leaning justices and four liberal-minded justices, with one swing vote.
“This has been the most transparent and most important Supreme Court selection process in the history of our country and I wanted the American people to have a voice in this nomination,” Trump said.
To overcome a filibuster on his nomination, eight Democratic Senators will need to vote in favor of Gorsuch’s nomination along with the 52 Republicans.
The president of Mexico spoke out this week against President Trump’s plans to build the wall between the two countries.
“It is evident that we have differences with the new United States government on some issues, such as a wall that Mexico absolutely will not pay for,” Pena Nieto said. “At no time will we accept anything that goes against our dignity as a country and our dignity as Mexicans.”
Economists and Democratic opponents have said that tariffs will only exacerbate the price of imported Mexican goods for Americans.
On Friday, the president signed an executive order that called for an immediate travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, including: Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Under what Trump is calling the “Immigration Order,” visa-holders and immigrants from the seven listed nations are prohibited from entering the country.
The order also suspends the United States’ refugee system for 120 days at a time when the global population of individuals living as refugees is at a historic high, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. Currently, refugee intake from Syria is suspended indefinitely.
The order gives preference to Christian refugees from the Middle East over Muslim refugees, while slashing the total number of refugees that will be allowed into the U.S. during 2017 from 110,000 to 50,000.
Trump called this order –which he has officially titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” – a security measure that is part of a new “extreme vetting” process to “keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States.”
Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, expressed her disdain for the new measure during a phone call with Trump Sunday.
Merkel said she believed the global fight against terrorism “does not justify putting people of a specific background or faith under general suspicion.” She also attempted to remind the president of the Geneva Convention’s obligation to take in war refugees on humanitarian grounds.
Protests have erupted across the country in response to the ban, many taking place in airports where refugees and travelers were being detained because of the executive order. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called Trump’s order “a euphemism for Muslim discrimination.”
The long-term effects of the ban are currently uncertain because many organizations have lawsuits in place against the plan and leaders around the world are denouncing the plan as illegal under international human rights laws.
Trump announced to reporters Saturday that he thought the order was “working out very nicely” while also stating that the order is in fact “not a Muslim ban,” as opponents have suggested.