"American values at stake": Obama releases statement against President Trump's travel ban

Barack Obama is already pushing back against his successor's "Muslim ban," says he is "heartened" by protests

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published January 31, 2017 1:34AM (EST)

 (Getty/Drew Angerer/Alex Wong)
(Getty/Drew Angerer/Alex Wong)

In the final days of his presidency, Barack Obama repeatedly told reporters and the American people that he would be taking a break before jumping back into the scene as a private citizen. But just before leaving office, Obama vowed to speak out if Donald Trump makes good on campaign pledges that violate America's "core values." Among them, Obama said, are “systematic discrimination,” voter suppression, “institutional efforts to silence dissent or the press” and the deportation of children who immigrated into the country illegally with their parents.

Now only 10 days after leaving office, Obama is already weighing in against one of Trump's most extreme campaign promises -- putting to test the longstanding tradition of "one president at a time."

On Monday, the former president’s office released his first statement since leaving the White House, noting “American values are at stake.” The statement expressed support for the protests against Trump's temporary ban on refugees and travelers from seven majority Muslim nations, and clarified that Obama does not support discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.

"President Obama is heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country. In his final official speech as president, he spoke about the important role of citizen and how all Americans have a responsibility to be the guardians of our democracy--not just during an election but every day," Kevin Lewis, Obama's spokesman, said. There are plans for further protests at 10 airports across the country this week.

Although it did not mention Trump by name or directly criticize the executive order that he signed on Friday, the statement's implication was one of disapproval.

“With regard to comparisons to President Obama’s foreign policy decisions, as we’ve heard before, the president fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion,” the statement read. The Trump administration has cited a 2011 temporary immigration order by Obama that halted Iraqis coming to the U.S. to defend the so-called Muslim ban.

“In his final official speech as president, he spoke about the important role of citizen and how all Americans have a responsibility to be the guardians of our democracy - not just during an election but every day,” the statement continued. "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."

When asked about Obama’s statement Monday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer again defended the executive order. “It is a shame that people were inconvenienced obviously,” he said. “But at the end of the day we are talking about a couple of hours.”

Although Obama left Washington, D.C. for a Palm Springs vacation with his family shortly after Trump was sworn into office, the 44th president has returned to the nation's capital where he plans to stay at least until his youngest daughter graduates from high school.

Obama has cited former President George W. Bush’s graciousness to his incoming administration despite their political differences as an example he sought to follow, but Trump's shock-and-awe approach to his first week in office indicates that longstanding tradition will be tossed aside as Obama appears ready to speak out against his successor.

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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Barack Obama Discrimnation Donald Trump Immigration Muslim Ban Travel Ban