Last weekend finds Trump’s administration facing fierce criticism as its first full month in office draws to a close. Trump’s policies on immigration come under fire while he continues to deny allegations of Russian involvement in the election.
On Saturday, The Washington Post reported events that transpired on Wednesday at Houston International Airport when Henry Rousso, “an Egyptian-born French citizen” and a leading Holocaust scholar was detained and almost deported. It was thanks to the quick actions of Texas A&M University that the situation was diffused. Richard Golsan, director of the Glasscock Center for Humanities Research at Texas A&M, explained that “Rousso was ‘mistakenly detained’ by U.S. immigration authorities” in an article in The Washington Post.” Rousso tweeted “the officer who arrested me was ‘inexperienced.’” Issues with Rousso’s treatment are further compounded by the fact that France is “a beneficiary of the U.S. visa waiver program, which permits French citizens to enter the United States without a visa,” as well as the fact that Egypt was never included in the seven countries in the travel ban. Rousso’s lecture was on the Vichy Regime in unoccupied France in WWII and its collaboration with Nazi Germany, where tens of thousands of Jews were deported to concentration camps. The irony was not lost on fellow historians, as Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a professor of Italian history with New York University, called out the irony in her tweet, calling “his work on cost of forgetting past (Vichy) so relevant.” Ruth Ben-Ghiat also drew a parallel between Donald Trump and Mussolini’s authoritarian traits in this article from The New Yorker.
Meanwhile, Aleksander Ceferin, the president of the Union of European Football Associations, released a statement on Sunday saying that the United States’ travel restrictions may damage its hopes of hosting the 2026 World Cup. “[Immigration policy] will be part of the evaluation, and I am sure it will not help the United States to get the World Cup… If players cannot come because of political decisions, or populist decisions, then the World Cup cannot be played there… It is the same for the fans, and the journalists, of course. It is the World Cup. They should be able to attend the event, whatever their nationality is. But let’s hope that it does not happen,” he said. Rory Smith of The New York Times reported that Trump’s travel ban caught the eye of soccer officials because Iran, Iraq, and Syria “have national teams that could be affected if it becomes more than a temporary policy.”
In other news, The Washington Post reported last Sunday that Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy press secretary, released a statement saying it’s too early to determine whether or not Attorney General Jeff Sessions should appoint a special prosecutor in his place to look into allegations of Russian meddling into the U.S. election. Furthermore, Sanders affirmed that the allegations of Russian involvement had no basis, and were indeed driven by “Democrats upset by the election result.” Sanders is quoted saying “The bigger thing here is, if Democrats want to continue to relive their loss every single day, by doing an investigation… that’s fine by us… We know why we won this race. It’s because we had the better candidate with the better message… They didn’t have a good candidate, and if they want to continue to relive that loss every single day, then we welcome that.” President Trump himself jumped in, tweeting “Russia talk is FAKE NEWS put out by the Dems, and played up by the media, in order to mask the big election defeat and the illegal leaks!” later that Sunday. Spokesman Sean Spicer concurred, asking “a special prosecutor for what?” Californian Republican Representative Darrell Issa, who had earlier called for a special prosecutor, instead backtracked on his statement that same Sunday, saying “I think it’s very important to realize there’s been no allegation by any part of this administration or by anyone who’s been to the hearings about any crimes,” in an interview with CBS News. Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that analysts say that the Kremlin is looking to exploit the weakness and chaos in Washington as Russia moves to make more international plays. Sergei A. Markov, a leading analyst and a member of a Kremlin advisory group, sums up the mood, saying “Right now the Kremlin is looking for ways that Russia can use the chaos in Washington to pursue its own interests… The main hope is that the U.S. will be preoccupied with itself and will stop pressuring Russia.”
The case involving Rousso is a very embarrassing episode, as it reflects problematic issues with the United States’ immigration policy and the obvious lack of ability and training among American immigrations officers as they are forced to scramble to implement Trump’s drastic policies. That his area of study is the Vichy Regime is ironic and warns us not to forget lessons learned in the past. Trump’s decisions in office, having begun to mirror the authoritarian policies from past regimes, are frightening as they may signal a start down a slippery slope.
The Russia controversy, meanwhile, continues to develop, as many of Trump’s advisors continue to deny and involvement. With confusion in the White House and Trump focusing on internal policies, it opens up a frightening opportunity for Russia on a more global scale. Worry comes to mind when one thinks of the Kremlin’s agenda internationally, as they are undoubtedly in an advantageous position to exploit the withdrawal of American attention from Russian actions.