Whatever may be the agendas, excesses or domineering power of the United States, its democracy with checks and balances works powerfully as we see in the aftermath of newly-inaugurated President Donald Trump’s apparently cruel and merciless order banning entry for people from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Mr. Trump’s executive order, a campaign promise made by him, was suddenly executed last Friday -- sparking huge protests by hundreds of thousands of Americans who said Mr. Trump was changing the face of America which for centuries has been a home for people of all races or religions and a haven of diversity.
Hundreds of Americans led by entertainment stars also launched a counter-campaign. Instead of reacting angrily to what is widely seen as an order to enforce national security without compassion, the entertainment stars launched a fund to help refugees fleeing the brutal Syrian war. On the first night alone, they raised more than one million USD from people all over the United States and even other countries. They said they hoped the multi-million dollar fund would show the compassionate face of America as portrayed in the Statue of Liberty saying, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” The search engine Google also announced it had created a crisis fund that could raise up to US$4 million for four immigrant rights organizations.
On Monday night Mr. Trump—remaining recklessly arrogant despite widespread protests by people all over the world-- fired the Acting US Attorney General Sally Yates after she told justice department lawyers not to defend his executive order. The White House reacting angrily and sharply said Ms. Yates had “betrayed” the department by refusing to enforce a legal order “designed to protect the citizens of the United States”.
Some analysts say an apocalyptic view of Islamist terrorism is the thread that connects Mr. Trump to key allies in his administration and underpins this weekend’s immigration chaos. But is their ramped-up rhetoric just giving terrorists what they want? Mr. Trump appointed Dana Boente, US attorney for the eastern district of Virginia, to replace Ms. Yates as Acting Attorney General. The President’s official appointee, anti-immigration hardliner Senator Jeff Sessions, is yet to be confirmed by the Senate. As the country’s top law enforcement official, Ms. Yates, who was appointed by Barack Obama, had control over the justice department’s immigration litigation office, which has handled the federal complaints filed against Mr. Trump’s order since his bombshell policy was announced on Friday.
Ms. Yates defended her directive saying “I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right. At present I am not convinced that the defence of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful.”
Her action brought praise from immigration activists and Democrats but within three hours Ms. Yates was gone. The White House media secretary’s office in a statement said: “Ms. Yates is an Obama administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration”. Democrats condemned the dismissal of Ms. Yates. The Democratic National Committee’s senior advisor Zac Petkanas, said: “Donald Trump can try to silence heroic patriots like Sally Yates who dare to speak truth to power about his illegal anti-Muslim ban that emboldens terrorists around the globe. But he cannot silence the growing voices of an American people now wide awake to his tyrannical presidency.”
Analysts compared the firing to the 1973 “Saturday night massacre” when Richard Nixon sacked the special Watergate prosecutor, Archibald Cox, prompting the resignation of Elliot Richardson as Attorney General. Eventually, Mr. Nixon had to resign as he faced imminent impeachment by the US Congress. The Harvard University’s Constitutional Law Professor, Laurence Tribe summed up the crisis by saying , “I think it’s historic. It certainly reminded me immediately of the Saturday night massacre. There are many differences but one is how quickly this has happened in the Trump presidency. It’s as if history is collapsing into a black hole... the executive order really challenges who we are as Americans”.