In a statement from Barack Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis, the former president called President Donald Trump’s Saturday-morning tweet, which asserted Obama surveilled Trump Tower via wiretapping, “simply false.”
“A cardinal rule of the Obama administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice,” the statement reads. “As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.”
Trump, citing no evidence, accused Obama of wiretapping in a bizarre Twitter rant that meandered from defending Attorney General Jeff Sessions in his ongoing Russian ambassador scandal to accusing Obama of McCarthyism.
And, true to form, the commander in chief managed to get an early morning jab in at his Apprentice successor Arnold Schwarzenegger after the actor’s announcement Friday that he was leaving the show due to its “baggage.”
While Trump and his loyal subjects keep bleating about the mess Obama left for them to clean up, and insist that the world laughed at us for the entire eight years of his administration, a growing movement in France is proving them to be completely out of their gourds. France’s presidential election is coming up in April, and these people, fed up with Marine Le Pen and her Trump-like attitudes and policies, want Obama to come be France’s president.
Seriously. They’ve got a petition going that’s asking Obama to run, and they’re hoping they can get at least one million signatures on it. They’ve also put up 500 posters around Paris and have an actual campaign organization going:
Does Obama want to be president of France? Probably not, and the truth is that this is a bit of a joke. But it’s not a joke on Obama or the U.S. It’s a “joke” in that this group knows he’s not going to come run for president there, and they’re using this campaign to send a very serious message:
“We are so fed up with what Marine Le Pen is doing, and with the fact that we weren’t able to find a candidate to vote for, only one to vote against. We started talking about that and it came up that Obama is free — so why not hire him?”
In other words, they see Obama as someone who still represents hope and something to fight for in a world where we increasingly just vote and fight against things.
People have actually been getting in touch with the campaign to offer ideas for how to get around the fact that Obama isn’t French. Even some lawyers have contacted them with advice on how to make it possible, like making him a naturalized citizen of France. But nobody knows if Obama is even aware of this yet. If he is, and he answers, then the campaign believes there will be a huge reaction.
President Obama gave environmental advocates a Christmas present when he announced in late December that he was banning oil and gas drilling in huge swaths of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. This action “indefinitely” protects almost 120 million acres of ecologically important and highly sensitive marine environments from the risks of oil spills and other industrial impacts.
President Obama acted boldly to conserve important ecological resources and solidify his environmental legacy. But by making creative use of an obscure provision of a 1953 law, Obama ignited a legal and political firestorm.
Republicans and oil industry trade groups are threatening to challenge the ban in court or through legislation. They also contend that the Trump administration can act directly to reverse it. But a close reading of the law suggests that it could be difficult to undo Obama’s sweeping act.
The power to withdraw
Congress passed the law now known as the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act in 1953 to assert federal control over submerged lands that lie more then three miles offshore, beyond state coastal waters. Section 12(a) of the law authorizes the president to “withdraw from disposition any of the unleased lands of the outer Continental Shelf.”
Starting in 1960 with the Eisenhower administration, six presidents from both parties have used this power. Most withdrawals were time-limited, but some were long-term. For example, in 1990 President George H. W. Bush permanently banned oil and gas development in California’s Monterey Bay, which later became a national marine sanctuary.
President Obama used section 12(a) in 2014 to protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay, one of the most productive wild salmon fisheries in the world. In 2015 he took the same step for approximately 9.8 million acres in the biologically rich Chukchi and Beaufort seas.
Obama’s latest action bars energy production in 115 million more acres of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas – an area known as the “Arctic Ring of Life” because of its importance to Inupiat Peoples who have lived there for millennia. The order also withdraws 3.8 million acres off the Atlantic Coast from Norfolk, Virginia to Canada, including several unique and largely unexplored coral canyons.
Why Obama acted
In a Presidential Memorandum on the Arctic withdrawals, Obama provided three reasons for his action. First, he asserted, these areas have irreplaceable value for marine mammals, other wildlife, wildlife habitat, scientific research and Alaska Native subsistence use. Second, they are extremely vulnerable to oil spills. Finally, drilling for oil and responding to spills in Arctic waters poses unique logistical, operational, safety and scientific challenges.
In ordering the Atlantic withdrawals, Obama cited his responsibility to “ensure that the unique resources associated with these canyons remain available for future generations.”
Market forces support Obama’s action. Royal Dutch Shell stopped drilling in the Chukchi Sea in 2015 after spending US$7 billion and drilling in what proved to be a dry hole. Since 2008 the Interior Department has canceled or withdrawn a number of sales in Alaskan waters due to low demand. Shell, ConocoPhillips, Statoil, Chevron, BP and Exxon have all to some degree abandoned offshore Arctic drilling.
Low oil prices coupled with high drilling costs make business success in the region a risky prospect. Lloyd’s of London forecast this scenario in a 2012 report that called offshore drilling in the Arctic “a unique and hard-to-manage risk.”
What happens next?
Critics of President Obama’s action, including the state of Alaska and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, say they may challenge Obama’s order in court, in hopes that the Trump administration will opt not to defend it. But environmental groups, which hailed Obama’s action, will seek to intervene in any such lawsuit.
Moreover, to demonstrate that they have standing to sue, plaintiffs would have to show that they have suffered or face imminent injury; that this harm was caused by Obama’s action; and that it can be redressed by the court. Market conditions will make this very difficult.
The Energy Information Administration currently projects that crude oil prices, which averaged about $43 per barrel through 2016, will rise to only about $52 per barrel in 2017. Whether these areas will ever be commercially viable is an open question, especially since rapid changes are taking place in the electricity and transportation sectors, and other coastal areas are open for leasing in Alaska’s near-shore waters and the Gulf of Mexico.
Alternatively, Donald Trump could issue his own memorandum in office seeking to cancel Obama’s. However, section 12(a) does not provide any authority for presidents to revoke actions by their predecessors. It delegates authority to presidents to withdraw land unconditionally. Once they take this step, only Congress can undo it.
This issue has never been litigated. Opponents can be expected to argue that Obama’s use of section 12(a) in this manner is unconstitutional because it violates the so-called “nondelegation doctrine,” which basically holds that Congress cannot delegate legislative functions to the executive branch without articulating some “intelligible principles.”
However, one could argue that Obama’s action was based on an articulation of intelligible principles gleaned from the stated policies of the OCSLA, which recognizes that the “the outer Continental Shelf is a vital national resource reserve held by the Federal Government for the public.” The law expressly recognizes both the energy and environmental values of the OCS. Thus President Obama’s decision reflects a considered judgment that the national interest is best served by protecting the unique natural resources of these areas, while at the same time weaning the nation from its dangerous dependence on fossil fuels.
The section 12(a) authority is similar in some respects to the authority granted by the Antiquities Act, which authorizes the president to “reserve parcels of land as a part of [a] national monument.” Like the OCSLA, the Antiquities Act does not authorize subsequent presidents to undo the designations of their predecessors. Obama has also used this power extensively – most recently, last week when he designated two new national monuments in Utah and Nevada totaling 1.65 million acres.
Some laws do include language that allows such actions to be revoked. Examples include the Forest Service Organic Administration Act, under which most national forests were established, and the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which sets out policies for managing multiple-use public lands. The fact that Congress chose not to include revocation language in the OCSLA indicates that it did not intend to provide such power.
What can the new Congress do?
Under Article IV of the Constitution, Congress has plenary authority to dispose of federal property as it sees fit. This would include the authority to open these areas to leasing for energy development. Members of Alaska’s congressional delegation are considering introducing legislation to override Obama’s drilling ban. But Democrats could filibuster to block any such move, and Republicans – who will hold a 52-48 margin in the Senate – would need 60 votes to stop them.
On the other hand, Congress may be content to let President-elect Trump make the first move and see how it goes in court. If Trump attempts to reverse the withdrawal, environmental groups contesting his decision would face some of the same obstacles as an industry challenge to Obama’s action. It could be especially challenging for environmental groups to show that the claim is “ripe” for judicial review, at least until a post-Obama administration acts to actually open up these areas for leasing. That may not occur for some time, given the weak market for the oil in these regions.
In the meantime, this decision is a fitting capstone for a president who has done everything within his power to confront the existential threat of climate change and rationally move the nation and the world onto a safer and more sustainable path.
As is the case with most things, your perception of him likely boils down to how his presidency has affected you, unless you are black — and that’s what will complicate the question.
Walk into a black family function, hug the aunts, peck the grandmas on the cheek, make yourself a plate of food and then yell, “Obama hasn’t done anything for black people!” Watch how quickly your plate is snatched. You’ll be attacked from all angles, called every name and probably thrown out face-first. The only person who will side with you is your Republican cousin who brought the white girl, and maybe that one veteran uncle who hates everything.
Black people have been the ultimate Obama apologists. The last eight years have been a constant string of excuses for what he hasn’t done: Obama can’t just do that! or Obama has to wait to do this! My barber even said, “Yo, did you ever Google his constitutional powers?” Some black people went really crazy. My cousin (not the Republican one) even said, “Obama can’t talk about reparations because we aren’t ready!” Like he wouldn’t take a check. Suddenly, the world is full experts on the president’s powers and masters of what he can and cannot say.
What’s funny is that I never heard Bill Clinton can’t say that! or George Bush doesn’t have the power to do that! while they were in office, even when George W. Bush ran into Iraq like they were giving away free oil and Clinton treated the Oval Office like the backseat of a used Honda.
And I get it; the double standard is real. As one of the few black professors at more than a few of the universities I’ve taught at in the past, I’ve received the Obama treatment. I’ve been put under a microscope, with people just waiting for me to mess up, and also praised too much when I accomplished simple things like using the coffeemaker without reading the instructions, and always — always — left alone during controversial moments.
But I’m not the president, so I don’t have to be as cool, which is great because I often lack the temperament needed for diplomacy. In arguments I can go from zero to Trump in under a minute. But even after acknowledging the tough position Obama has been in, I still think he could’ve spoken up more, especially on issues dealing with the people who defend him on a constant basis.
We all heard Obama say that he is the president of America, not just black America. I’d argue that he chose to be the president of black America when it was time to rally for Hillary Clinton and during that one Father’s Day speech. But you can’t be the black president only when it’s convenient. I acknowledge his speeches after Trayvon Martin’s death and his eulogy for the victims of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.
I personally, however, would have also liked to have heard harsher critiques on the unfair hiring practices that still exist, the racist members of Congress who wouldn’t work with him and our nation’s police problem. We may be getting his insight on that soon. I just hope it’s not too late.
Obama recently sat down with Doris Goodwin for lengthy Vanity Fair interview in which he stated there are “things . . . that in some ways I suspect I’m able to do better out of this office.” He didn’t offer any language that alluded to addressing black people’s problems, but it seems like he’s going to take stronger positions in an effort to support us little people once he’s not president anymore. We needed that over the last eight years, too — or at least over the last four.
Obama’s post-presidency plans reminds me of those dudes from the neighborhood who would always pop up magically at the end of fights, yelling, “I woulda kick his ass! I woulda stomped him out! I woulda held him down!” At first you think they are your best allies, until the day that magic doesn’t work and they are presented with a confrontation. In EAst Baltimore when people fail to back up all the claims that they’ve made, we call them Woulda Guys because they never do anything other than talk about what they woulda done. I hope that Obama won’t become a Woulda Guy, talking about what he woulda done for black people after he leaves office.
Obama changed the world and I support him — not because of policy or ideology but because I’m black and my family would proudly disown me if I didn’t. All jokes aside, Barack Obama has been a great president and I even though I wish many things about his terms in office had gone differently, I respect what he has accomplished. I’m sure we are going to wish he was still in the Oval Office over the next four years.
Seizing on a report published by the New York Times earlier Sunday, President Barack Obama joked that Donald Trump’s campaign “had so little confidence in his self-control” that they took away his access to Twitter.
According to the Times report, members of Trump’s press team finally “wrested away” the Republican candidate’s access to Twitter, which previously served as an unfiltered channel for Trump to express his often colorful opinions.
“Apparently his campaign has taken away his Twitter,” a bemused Obama told the crowd at a campaign rally for Hillary Clinton in Kissimmee, Florida.
“In the last two days, they had so little confidence in his self-control they said we are just going to take away your Twitter. Now, if somebody can’t handle a Twitter account, they can’t handle the nuclear codes,” Obama said. “If somebody starts tweeting at three in the morning because SNL made fun of you, then you can’t handle the nuclear codes.”
President Barack Obama in a press conference on Tuesday implored Donald Trump to “stop whining” about a “rigged” election.
“There’s no serious person out there who would suggest somehow that . . . you could even rig America’s election — in part because they’re so decentralized and the number of votes involved,” Obama said. “There’s no evidence that that has happened in the past or that there are instances in which that will happen this time. And so I’d advise Mr. Trump to stop whining and go try to make his case to get votes. And if he got the most votes, then it would be my expectation of Hillary Clinton to offer a gracious concession speech and pledge to work with him in order to make sure that the American people benefit from an effective government.”
Obama is not the first political figure to criticize Trump for “whining” about make-believe voter fraud. Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, guesting on Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” on Monday night, also suggested the real estate mogul “stop whining.”
Monday’s “Late Show” was noteworthy for another reason: President Obama made a guest appearance.
Conspiracy? You make the connections here.
In June, Infowars.com founder Alex Jones had a perfectly justifiable Super Male Vitality-induced on-air tantrum regarding “sniveler” Bill O’Reilly’s phony conservatism, through which he said the Fox News host “bullies” his audience into denouncing the Second Amendment.
So, for posterity sake, when the globalists drone-strike my survival shelter for exposing their secrets, I want written on my tombstone: “Alex Jones was right all along.”
President Barack Obama said there are “dangers” to Donald Trump’s rhetoric on Muslims on Wednesday, saying it represented a “slippery slope.”
Actually, Obama denied that he was referring specifically to Trump during a CNN town hall for service members at Fort Lee, Virginia. But he spoke about the risks involved when people “aspiring to become president get loose with this language.”
Those dangers, Obama said, “you can see in some of the language that we use — in talking about Muslim-Americans here and the notion that somehow we’d start having religious tests in who can come in the country and who’s investigated and whether the Bill of Rights applies to them in the same way.”
Trump has at times proposed banning all Muslims from entering the United States, a notion that Obama has frequently attacked as anathema to American values. More recently, Trump has said he would impose “extreme vetting” and an ideological test for people who want to enter the United States, as well as ban entry for people from certain states affected by terrorism.
When asked by CNN host Jake Tapper whether he was referring to Trump, Obama demurred.
“It’s not unique to the Republican nominee,” Obama said. “And, again, I’m trying to be careful. We’re on a military base. I don’t want to insert partisan politics into this.”
Obama continued, “I think that there have been a number of public figures where you start hearing commentary that is dangerous because what it starts doing is it starts dividing us up as Americans.”
The president then noted that at Arlington National Cemetery, graves of fallen soldiers have crosses, Stars of David and crescents. That reference was reminiscent of the Khan family, who spoke about their Muslim son while excoriating Trump at the Democratic National Convention in July. Trump responded by going after the Gold Star family.
Obama’s comments were something of a pivot away from the central question of another Gold Star mother at the town hall meeting. Her 19-year-old son died in Baghdad in 2007, and she asked Obama why he refused to use the term “Islamic terrorist.” It’s a criticism Trump and other Republicans have lobbed at the president as well.
Obama told her the issue is “sort of manufactured” because he has acknowleged that groups like Al Qaeda and ISIL have “perverted and distorted” Islam.
Obama has explained that he does not want to legitimize terrorists by saying they speak for the billions of peaceful Muslims around the world. However, he adopted a novel, more personal example to illustrate his point.
“If you had an organization that was going around killing and blowing people up and said we’re on the vanguard of Christianity,” Obama said, “as a Christian, I’m not going to let them claim my religion and say you’re killing for Christ. I would say that’s ridiculous. That’s not what my religion stands for. Call these folks what they are, which is killers and terrorists.”
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama nominated lawyer Abid Qureshi for t, who if confirmed, would serve as the first Muslim federal judge.
According to the National Law Journal, civil rights organization Muslim Advocates says Qureshi is also the first Muslim a president has ever nominated to the federal judiciary. Earlier this year, the Guardian noted Obama had not yet nominated a Muslim to the federal bench, despite leading an unprecedented push to diversify the pool of “785 federal judges, according to the Federal Judicial Center, with about 90 vacancies outstanding.”
“I am pleased to nominate Mr. Qureshi to serve on the United States District Court bench,” Obama said in a statement. “I am confident he will serve the American people with integrity and a steadfast commitment to justice.”
According to the National Law Journal, Qureshi is a “Latham & Watkins’ pro bono practice and a litigation partner.” While his nomination is historic — and flies in the face of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s contention earlier this year that Muslim judges might be biased — it is also unlikely to result in Qureshi landing a federal judgeship anytime soon.
Republicans in the Senate have blocked more of Obama’s nominees for the federal judiciary than any president in the past 30 years, according to a May analysis from their Democratic counterparts published in the Washington Post.
Merrick Garland, who Obama nominated to fill late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat back in March, is still waiting for Senate consideration. Dozens of other federal seats are likely to go unfilled through the remaining months of the president’s term, due largely to a long-running campaign of obstruction against Obama nominees.
Last year, the Huffington Post reported a shortage of federal judges had resulted in massive backlogs of cases for judges across the country, with many individual judges working overtime to address them.
President Obama used this week’s “Weekly Address” to discuss the Zika virus and slam the Republicans who have chosen to block the funding necessary to fight the spread of this mosquito-borne disease.
The president began by talking about a call he had gotten from a pregnant woman named Ashley who said she was “extremely concerned” about Zika and “what it might mean for other pregnant women like her.” He added that, as a father, he shared this mother’s worry. Conservatives in Congress on the other hand, not so much.
“Republicans in Congress did not share Ashley’s ‘extreme concern,’ nor that of other Americans expecting children. They said no. Instead, we were forced to use resources we need to keep fighting Ebola, cancer, and other diseases. We took that step because we have a responsibility to protect the American people” said Obama. “But that’s not a sustainable solution. And Congress has been on a seven-week recess without doing anything to protect Americans from the Zika virus.”
Obama said that his “Administration has done what we can on our own,” but that is not nearly enough to stop the spread of this disease. He explained the steps that citizens can take to try to protect themselves from the mosquitos who carry and spread the virus: use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, get rid of standing water where mosquitos breed, etc.
And then, President Obama tore into the Republican lawmakers who have been dragging their feet when it comes to funding the measures that will stop the threat of this disease, which is known to cause serious birth defects when a pregnant woman is infected, including microcephaly.
“But every day that Republican leaders in Congress wait to do their job, every day our experts have to wait to get the resources they need – that has real-life consequences. Weaker mosquito-control efforts. Longer wait times to get accurate diagnostic results. Delayed vaccines. It puts more Americans at risk.”
“One Republican Senator has said that ‘There is no such thing as a Republican position on Zika or Democrat position on Zika because these mosquitoes bite everyone.’”
“I agree. We need more Republicans to act that way because this is more important than politics. It’s about young mothers like Ashley. Today, her new baby Savannah is healthy and happy. That’s priority number one. And that’s why Republicans in Congress should treat Zika like the threat that it is and make this their first order of business when they come back to Washington after Labor Day. That means working in a bipartisan way to fully fund our Zika response. A fraction of the funding won’t get the job done. You can’t solve a fraction of a disease. Our experts know what they’re doing. They just need the resources to do it.”