Washington Brief: Trump Fires Acting Attorney General Over Refusal to Defend Immigration Order

Washington Brief

  • President Donald Trump fired Sally Yates, a holdover from the Obama administration who was acting attorney general, after she questioned the legality of his immigration executive order and refused to defend it in court. (The Washington Post) She wasn’t the only dissenter: Hundreds of diplomats on Monday were circulating a cable dissenting to the order. (Foreign Policy)
  • Senior staffers on the House Judiciary Committee worked with the Trump administration on the immigration order, without consulting GOP leaders and the committee chairman. (Politico)
  • Over the past year, Republican voters have said they were motivated to support Trump over his ability to appoint a conservative judge to the Supreme Court. Trump will announce his pick tonight at 8 p.m. (Morning Consult)
  • In light of the backlash over the president’s immigration ban, Democrats are doubling down on their effort to slow confirmation of Trump’s Cabinet nominees. But there is little the minority party can actually do to stop Trump’s Cabinet from being approved. On Monday night, Rex Tillerson’s nomination for secretary of State moved forward in a 56-43 vote, setting up a final confirmation vote on Wednesday. (The New York Times)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee votes on Interior nominee Zinke and Energy nominee Perry 9:30 a.m.
Senate Judiciary Committee votes on AG nominee Sessions 9:30 a.m.
House convenes 10 a.m.
Senate Finance Committee to vote on HHS nominee Price and Treasury nominee Mnuchin 10 a.m.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on North Korea 10 a.m.
Senate HELP Committee votes on education secretary nominee DeVos 10 a.m.
Senate convenes 12 p.m.
Senate votes to confirm transportation secretary nominee Chao 12:20 p.m.
House Oversight subcommittee hearing on Obamacare 2 p.m.
House votes 5 p.m.
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee votes on OMB nominee Mulvaney 9:40 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on Medicaid 10 a.m.
Senate HELP Committee hearing on Obamacare 10 a.m.
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on fencing on southwest border 10 a.m.
Senate Budget Committee hearing on CBO budget and economic outlook 10:30 a.m.
House Oversight Committee hearing on the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act 2 p.m.
House Foreign Affairs joint subcommittee hearing on a U.S.-U.K. trade agreement 10 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on health markets 10:30 a.m.
No events scheduled



U.S. judges limit Trump immigration order; some officials ignore rulings
Mica Rosenberg and Jonathan Stempel, Reuters 

U.S. judges in at least five states blocked federal authorities from enforcing President Donald Trump’s executive order restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. However, lawyers representing people covered by the order said some authorities were unwilling on Sunday to follow the judges’ rulings.

Hundreds of U.S. Diplomats Protest Trump Immigration Ban in Internal Memos
John Hudson, Foreign Policy 

The number of State Department officials signing memos protesting President Donald Trump’s immigration and refugee ban quickly surpassed 200, department officials told Foreign Policy on Monday. The exact number of signatures is unknown as several different draft versions are in circulation, but the number far outstrips the 51 signatories who spoke out against former President Barack Obama’s Syria policy last summer, a number viewed at the time as “extremely large, if not unprecedented.”

Report finds national security agencies at risk in foreign-owned buildings
Sophie Tatum and Pamela Brown, CNN 

US law-enforcement agencies are at risk of being spied on and hacked because some of their field offices are located in foreign-owned buildings without even knowing it, according to a new government report. The report by the Government Accountability Office, which was obtained by CNN and is due to be released later Monday, reveals that a number of FBI, Homeland Security, Secret Service and Drug Enforcement Agency offices across the country are housed in space leased from firms based in China and other nations.

African Union criticises US for ‘taking many of our people as slaves’ and not taking refugees
Adam Withnall, The Independent 

The head of the African Union has criticised Donald Trump’s ban on immigration from some Muslim-majority countries, saying it presents “one of the greatest challenges” for the continent. As representatives of the AU’s 53 member states met in Addis Ababa for a two-day summit, the chief of its commission said the bloc was entering “very turbulent times” after the US President’s election.

Samantha Bee to Roast Trump on Same Night as Correspondents’ Dinner
Dave Itzkoff, The New York Times 

The annual custom of the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner suddenly seems uncomfortable if not untenable: Journalists mingling with Trump administration aides who loathe them, celebrities decrying Trump White House policies, and an entertainment headliner grappling with the tone and boldness of jokes about President Trump himself. But Samantha Bee is not waiting to see how this year’s soiree unfolds or if those involved decide to hold it at all.

As Boy Scouts reverse transgender ban, N.J. boy asked to return
Abbott Koloff, The Bergen County Record 

An 8-year-old North Jersey transgender boy who was forced out of the Cub Scouts because he was born a girl was asked to rejoin in what amounts to a major shift in policy for the Boy Scouts of America, which issued a statement Monday night indicating that it’s opening its membership to transgender children. “Starting today, we will accept and register youth in the Cub and Boy Scout programs based on the gender identity indicated on the application,” the Boy Scouts said in the statement.

Trump state visit plan ‘very difficult’ for Queen
BBC News 

Theresa May’s decision to invite Donald Trump to a state visit has put the Queen in a “very difficult position”, a former head of the Foreign Office says. Lord Ricketts told the BBC the speed of the invitation had “surprised” him.


With SCOTUS Pick, Trump Set to Fulfill Key Campaign Promise
Eli Yokley, Morning Consult 

President Donald Trump is set to nominate a conservative to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat Tuesday at 8 p.m., making good on a pledge which helped motivate the Republican base in the lead-up to his victory. When we asked voters in August, both Democrats and Republicans said the most important thing for them in the November election was winning the presidency.

Trump has fired the acting attorney general who ordered Justice Dept. not to defend president’s travel ban
Matt Zapotosky et al., The Washington Post  

President Trump fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates Monday night, after Yates ordered Justice Department lawyers Monday not to defend his immigration order temporarily banning entry into the United States for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries and refugees from around the world. In a press release, the White House said Yates had “betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.”

Homeland Security Chief and White House Clash
Damian Paletta and Aruna Viswanatha, The Wall Street Journal 

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has clashed with the White House over staffing and other decisions in recent days, people familiar with the matter said, leaving the agency without a second-in-command as it tried to institute a new travel ban during a chaotic weekend at the nation’s airports. When President Donald Trump selected Mr. Kelly, the pick won broad support from Republicans and Democrats in part because they believed the retired Marine general would be willing to speak up and challenge Mr. Trump.

Trump’s hard-line actions have an intellectual godfather: Jeff Sessions
Philip Rucker and Robert Costa, The Washington Post 

In jagged black strokes, President Trump’s signature was scribbled onto a catalogue of executive orders over the past 10 days that translated the hard-line promises of his campaign into the policies of his government. The directives bore Trump’s name, but another man’s fingerprints were also on nearly all of them: Jeff Sessions.

President Donald Trump to Add CIA Director to National Security Council
Damian Paletta, The Wall Street Journal 

President Donald Trump will amend a recent executive action so he can add Central Intelligence Agency director Mike Pompeo into a role on the National Security Council, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Monday. Mr. Trump signed an executive action Saturday that changed the structure of the NSC, giving his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, a role in the group’s principals committee while changing the status of the director of National Intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

White House says LGBT protections for federal workers will remain
Juliet Eilperin and Sandhya Somashekhar, The Washington Post

The White House is pledging to keep the Obama administration protections extended to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers, a statement said, apparently responding to reports that the orders would be reversed. “President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of L.G.B.T.Q. rights, just as he was throughout the election,” the White House said in a statement early Tuesday.

How Obama will take on Trump
Edward-Isaac Dovere, Politico

Barack Obama and his aides expected to take on President Donald Trump at some point, but they didn’t think it would happen this quickly. Now they’re trying to find the right balance on issues that demand a response, and how to use Obama deliver the selective pushback.


Senate Democrats Aim Their Limited Firepower at Trump’s Nominees
Emmarie Huetteman, The New York Times

Bolstered by a growing backlash to President Trump’s immigration order, Senate Democrats on Monday steeled themselves to slow the confirmation of cabinet nominees, dimming prospects for cooperation with the new White House. But each Democratic demand for procedural minutiae and details on nominees’ stances on Mr. Trump’s travel ban illuminated an immutable fact: There is little Democrats can do to stop Republicans from ramming through both Mr. Trump’s cabinet and their policy agenda.

Trump urges Rick Scott to run for prized Florida Senate seat
Alex Isenstadt and Marc Caputo, Politico

President Donald Trump is personally urging Florida Gov. Rick Scott to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018 — and the loyal Trump ally looks increasingly likely to take the leap. Trump and Scott speak about once a week and on several occasions have talked about the race, according to two sources briefed on the talks.


Hill staffers secretly worked on Trump’s immigration order
Rachael Bade et al., Politico 

Senior staffers on the House Judiciary Committee helped Donald Trump’s top aides draft the executive order curbing immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations, but the Republican committee chairman and party leadership were not informed, according to multiple sources involved in the process. The news of their involvement helps unlock the mystery of whether the White House consulted Capitol Hill about the executive order, one of many questions raised in the days after it was unveiled on Friday.

Rep. Dave Brat: ‘The women are in my grill no matter where I go’
Patrick Wilson, Richmond Times-Dispatch

Rep. Dave Brat, R-7th, is feeling some political pressure as Republicans in Congress move to repeal the Affordable Care Act. “Since Obamacare and these issues have come up, the women are in my grill no matter where I go,” Brat told an audience Saturday at a meeting of conservative groups at Hanover Tavern.


Missouri Gov. Greitens stays mum on Trump immigration order
Kurt Erickson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch 

Despite spending Saturday in the nation’s capital meeting with Vice President Mike Pence, Missouri’s new governor is not weighing in on President Donald Trump’s controversial executive order on immigration. Gov. Eric Greitens instead is staying mum amid criticism and praise of the temporary travel ban by other top Missouri officials and fellow governor’s across the nation.

In Albany, De Blasio Evaluates Cuomo’s Budget, Faces Legislators’ Questions
Rachel Silberstein, Gotham Gazette 

Mayor Bill de Blasio visited Albany Monday for his annual budget testimony in front of the joint budget committee of the state Senate and Assembly. In opening remarks, de Blasio touted some of his accomplishments and gave his on-the-record response to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recently-released executive budget plan in terms of what it means for New York City and his own agenda.

Congress once ran the local D.C. government. GOP signals that it may do so again.
Aaron C. Davis and Peter Jamison, The Washington Post 

The House committee that oversees the District plans to exercise its authority over the nation’s capital more aggressively than at any time in decades, reviewing local laws and spending decisions to ensure they are “in line with Congressional mandates and federal law.” The plan to conduct sweeping reviews of actions by D.C. lawmakers is part of a two-year agenda published by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.


After Dissing Trump, Chamber Borrows From His Populist Playbook
John McCormick, Bloomberg News

Diana Conley sat like a sparrow among eagles as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce kicked off a nationwide “listening tour” billed as a chance to gather the views of small business owners. Most of the attendees at the chamber’s breakfast meeting in a downtown Chicago hotel came from the area’s biggest employers, businesses including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Allstate Corp. and BMO Harris Bank.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Trump’s Fast Start Likely Puts the House in Play in 2018 
Stuart Rothenberg, Inside Elections

President Donald Trump is off to a fast start, but that aggressiveness could produce the same sort of reaction that Barack Obama’s fast start did in 2009: It could lead to a midterm election in which voters apply the brakes. In 2010, voters told President Obama that he had gone too far, too fast, with health care reform, a $787 billion economic stimulus package, the bailout of the banks, cash for clunkers and a generally liberal agenda.

GOP congressman: A wall is the least effective way to secure the border
Will Hurd, The Washington Post 

Because the world we live in is more dangerous than our parents’ was, and our children are set to inherit a world more dangerous than ours, Congress must get right our mandated mission to provide for the common defense of our country. With a unified Republican government, we now have a commander in chief who takes protecting our borders as seriously as Congress does.

Paul Ryan Is Not Spineless
Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine

Paul Ryan, who used to regularly signal his displeasure with Donald Trump, has backed Trump to the hilt since the election. And so the newest meme has been born: Paul Ryan has no spine.

Trump Dams the Regulatory Flood
The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal 

The Trump Administration is already a jumble of economic contradictions, but the “great” side of the ledger got an important new entry on Monday. President Trump signed an executive order adopting a “two-for-one” regulatory budget that will help accelerate growth and innovation.

Research Reports and Polling

Republicans Have One Big Incentive to Stick With Trump
Kyle Dropp and Brendan Nyhan, The New York Times 

Despite the growing protests against President Trump’s executive action on refugees and other people from seven predominantly Muslim countries, relatively few members of his party have spoken out against the policy — a familiar pattern since the election. To date, no congressional Republicans have consistently resisted Mr. Trump or his agenda even though his approval ratings are already historically low for a new president.

Millennials Were Most Skeptical That Trump Would Implement Muslim Ban
Jon Reid, Morning Consult 

President Donald Trump’s executive order on Friday that halts immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries contains provisions consistent with a campaign pledge to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States. Last month, voters, especially millennials, were skeptical he would act on that kind of plan.