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Strange Days Indeed
Late January and February usually are among the slowest weeks of the year for travel, both business and leisure. Except for the odd blizzard, not much happens. This year? Strange days indeed. Yes, we got a requisite blizzard in the Northeast. But we also got computer meltdowns at United and Delta airlines that ground flights to a halt. And a week into his presidency, Donald J. Trump made good on a campaign promise and imposed a temporary ban on immigration and travel by people in seven nations. His claim that it wasn't a "Muslim ban" was undercut by Rudy Giuliani, a Trump ally who said the president asked him to craft exactly such a thing. Federal courts promptly stayed all or parts of the President's executive order--and, of course, that sent him into a frenzy of tweets, recriminations and threats. Here's how we've been trying to cover it all. The most recent item is at the top. Read up for chronological context.
2/23/17, 8 PM ET, THURSDAY
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION SUDDENLY SLOW-WALKING ITS TRAVEL BAN
President Donald Trump unveiled his controversial Executive Order on travel and immigration after just seven days in office. It was dead within days after multiple courts stopped its implementation. Yet despite a clear path to fix the legal deficiencies--don't stop travel by green-card holders or detain people with visas already in the air--and President Trump's repeated insistence that a new Executive Order was imminent, the White House took no action again this week. In fact, Trump Administration spokesman Sean Spicer said today (February 23) that a revised Executive Order now won't come until next week. Why the slow-walking of something President Trump initially claimed was an immediate security need? Good question. One potential answer: The original Executive Order was a stunt aimed at name-checking a 2016 campaign promise rather than plugging a hole in the nation's travel policy. Another possibility: Someone in the Administration has convinced the President--who, if nothing else, is a businessman--that his first travel ban has seriously impacted legitimate inbound travel. Airline executives say passenger traffic to the United States is down, interest in coming has fallen and new surveys show visitors are souring on the idea of U.S. holidays.
2/16/17, 11 PM ET, THURSDAY
TRUMP CRIES UNCLE--FOR NOW
The Trump Administration has cried uncle--at least for the moment--on any attempts to enforce the President's January 27 order on travel and immigration. After a week of arranging deck chairs on its legal Titanic, the Justice Department yielded. It informed the Ninth Circuit Court, which imposed the nationwide stay of the executive order and then upheld the stay at the appellate level, that a new presidential order is coming. As a result, Justice told the Court today, it wishes no further action of its appeals or a trial on the merits of the case. Here's the rather terse legal end of the Trump Administration's first attempt at imposing what the President in 2015 called a Muslim ban.
Where we go from here is anyone's guess. Justice Department lawyers and President Trump during his press conference today promised a new executive order on the subject next week. Of course, last week he promised it this week. So we shall see. And the legal surrender comes from a president who once (falsely, of course) claimed he never settles legal cases.
2/10/17, 9 AM ET, FRIDAY
THE MORNING AFTER, MOTHER NATURE DIVISION
The morning after the big Northeast storm is shaping up better than most of us could have hoped. There are still plenty of annoying disruptions--FlightStats reports more than 350 cancellations and 1,000 delays as of 9 am--but it could have been worse. If there's any silver lining, it's that the delays and cancellations are scattered around the system. There's no particular airport black hole or airline collapse. Things should be back to normal (or as normal as February can be) by tomorrow. Just in time for another possible storm. But, buck up, fellow travelers, we're now halfway through the winter. Just weeks before we can start worrying about spring disruptions ...
2/10/17, 7:30 AM ET, FRIDAY
THE MORNING AFTER, PRESIDENT TRUMP DIVISION
As I've been telling you since the first protests erupted against President Trump's two-week-old Executive Order on immigration and travel, his ban is fatally flawed. It's not that he doesn't have the legal authority to control--even stop--immigration by fiat. He does. But even fiats in a democracy must be fair. On the face of it, his order isn't.
As Politico covers in depth, the current Trump Executive Order has an original sin: its initial application against legal residents. So-called green card holders have all the rights of citizens except for the vote. It's bizarre (and almost surely illegal) to single them out or limit their right of movement. The Trump Administration then erred by having the White House Counsel try to suggest that the ban did not say what it said vis a vis legal residents. (And, in fact, after the first weekend's chaos, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly definitively stated green card holders were exempt.) The 9th Circuit appeals court yesterday especially did not like the Justice Department suggesting Executive Orders were amendable by the lower ranks. And, legally speaking, the Justice Department's claim that presidential orders are unreviewable almost always raises the hackles of the judiciary branch. Like President Trump himself, the judiciary has a nearly insatiable ego when it comes to its authority to review.
Of course, this is not over. No trials have yet been held on the merits of the Trump position, although the fusillade of stays and restraining orders indicate that no judges so far are sanguine about an eventual Trump victory. A more circumspect president would withdraw the ban and write a new Executive Order designed to pass legal muster. Given a president's broad discretion, it's not that hard to do. But this President doesn't seem to have that kind of tactical flexibility. Every indication so far from the White House is that it will continue to try to justify the existing Executive Order even though no court (and there are about four dozen cases now) has liked what it has seen.
2/9/17, 9:30 PM ET, THURSDAY
FRIDAY'S TRAVEL FORECAST: COMPLICATED
The blizzard-like conditions that dumped more than a foot of snow on parts of the Northeast paralyzed flights today--and will do more damage tomorrow. It'll be a rocky day to fly to or from the Northeast--especially in the morning.
The airlines have already cancelled more than 250 flights tomorrow as of 9:30 pm, according to FlightStats.com. Flight crews and aircraft are out of position, so expect additional cancellations and surprisingly long delays as the major carriers try to piece together a schedule on the fly.
Delta Air Lines has extended its travel waiver through tomorrow at airports from Washington/National to Bangor, Maine. American and United have done the same, as have JetBlue Airways and several other carriers. Needless to say, if you can avoid flying tomorrow in these areas...
Also complicating travel in the region: icy roads that make getting to or from airports tricky. Mass transit, where available, is a better bet. Temperatures on Friday will also be below freezing throughout most of the region.
2/9/17, 8:30 PM ET, THURSDAY
APPEALS COURT UNANIMOUSLY REFUSES TO LIFT BAN ON PRESIDENT'S BAN
A three-judge federal appeals panel in San Francisco unanimously ruled against the Trump Administration this afternoon and refused to ban the temporary ban on President Trump's travel and immigration ban. The decision by the Court of Appeals of the 9th Circuit is available here.
The 29-page document was pointed in its assessment of the Justice Department's case. Among the court's criticisms: It reminded the government that Presidential Executive Orders are reviewable; seemed to suggest that the government didn't understand that the court can be given access to classified information to make determinations; and dismissed the Justice Department's argument that the White House counsel can moot parts of an Executive Order. And, by definition, the court decided the federal government has not been seriously harmed by the temporary restraining order stopping enforcement of the Executive Order and that the Trump Administration did not have a strong chance of eventual success on the merits of the case.
Some caveats should be noted: This, like all other court orders to date, is a procedural ruling. No trial has yet been held or evidence presented on the merits of the President's order. And as right-wing critics of the 9th Circuit frequently point out, it is a left-leaning court that is the most frequently overturned in the federal system. On the other hand, no other court so far has shown any interest in allowing the President's executive order to be enforced before a trial.
Where do we go from here? Well, not much guidance from President Trump, who unleashed a tweet tonight that said: "SEE YOU IN COURT." The capitalization is his--and it is unclear where the president thinks proceedings have been held up to now if not in court. He also called the decision "political." Two of the three judges on the appeals panel were appointed by Democratic presidents, but the third was appointed by President George W. Bush.
From a tactical standpoint, the Justice Department could appeal for a stay from a larger en banc panel of 9th Circuit judges; appeal to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who oversees the 9th Circuit; or it could allow a trial on the merits of case to go forward immediately with the temporary restraining order in place.
Would the Supreme Court hear the appeal? Unclear, but the Supreme Court generally prefers to take cases only after the actual substance of the matter has been adjudicated. It is rare for the Court to insert itself at such a preliminary stage. If the Justice Department drops its attempt to stay the temporary restraining order, the case would proceed in front of Judge James Robart. It was Robart who issued the TRO last Friday.
2/9/17, 8:15 PM ET, THURSDAY
TODAY'S TRAVEL IN THE EAST: A SLAUGHTER
Today was what I believe is officially called a slaughter. U.S. carriers cancelled more than 4,100 flights by 8 pm, according to FlightStats.com. The winter storm that stretched from Washington to Boston was the culprit, of course.
There were 500 cancellations at New York/LaGuardia and 400 at Boston. Newark and New York/JFK weren't far behind with about 350 cancellations each. There were about 160 cancellations at both Washington/National and Philadelphia. Biggest victims? Passengers of JetBlue Airways, where more than 550 flights were dumped. American Airlines dropped about 400 flights. Delta cancelled about 300 flights and United dropped about 250. The commuter carriers were also destroyed.
During the day, delays on the flights that did operate were brutal. There were delays stretching five hours for departures at Newark throughout the day. As late at 8 pm, inbound flights at Newark were delayed by about four hours, too. Across the Hudson River, flights headed to Kennedy Airport were held for hours at their departure airports because JFK was basically shut down.
But it wasn't just the East Coast where things were rotten. LAX and San Francisco had extensive delays in the morning. The delays at SFO continued throughout the day. They were still three hours long at 8pm. At the same hour, there were more than 95 cancellations and more than 225 delays, FlightStats said.
All this said, a JoeSentMe member was booked on a mid-day United Airlines Newark-Orlando flight. It departed two minutes early and arrived on-time.
2/9/17, 7 AM ET, THURSDAY
UNITED AIRLINES YESTERDAY WAS A HOT MESS
With snow pounding the Northeast and thousands of flights already cancelled today, United's computer failure yesterday will almost surely be quickly forgotten. But it is at least worth mentioning: United was a hot mess. According to FlightStats, United's mainline flights ran 46.5 percent on-time compared to the industry-wide average of 78.1 percent. More than 550 of its flights ran at least 45 minutes late. And despite its claims that there were no cancellations attributable to the computer issues, United dumped 66 flights yesterday or 3.7 percent of operations. That's 50 percent higher than yesterday's industry-wide cancellation performance.
2/8/17, 7:15 PM ET, WEDNESDAY
OOPS, UNITED DID IT AGAIN ...
United Airlines suffered another computer systems failure today. There was no ground stop, no explanation and, of course, no apology from United. Bad weather at LAX, San Francisco and Newark this morning initially masked the problem. Also, commuter flights seemed to operate regularly. But mainline jets had long departure delays, especially from Newark. One JoeSentMe member abandoned his flight to West Palm Beach after the delay, first announced for about an hour, stretched to three hours. (It eventually left five hours late, according to the flight status function at United.com.) Another member reports that his departing flight was delayed because flights that had not yet departed at his arrival airport were clogging gates.
The problem? The flight-planning system, the airline says, without giving any useful details. United cops to around 500 delays and claims there were no cancellations. At 6:30pm ET, however, FlightStats.com reported United had at least 840 delays--that represents about 15 percent of its mainline schedule--and 55 cancellations. It's hard to know how many are attributable to the computer problems and how many were caused by the early-morning bad weather.
2/8/17, 7 PM ET, WEDNESDAY
LET IT SNOW! LET IT SNOW! LET IT SNOW!
Travelers from Washington to Maine are in for nasty weather tonight and tomorrow. Airlines have issued travel waivers and they have already preemptively dumped about 2,000 flights, according to FlightStats.com. If you are flying to or from the Northeast tonight or tomorrow, check with your airline and consult the county-level forecasts at Weather.gov. The worst of the storm will be late this evening in the Washington area. No snow expected, but even saying the word "winter" tends to tie Washington into knots. From 4-6 inches of snow is expected in the Philadelphia area. Up to a foot of snow overnight and into tomorrow morning is forecast for the New York Metro region. The storm will hit Boston tomorrow morning and afternoon and dump as much as 14 inches. Needless to say, if you don't have to travel, make other plans. Maybe push everything into next week if you can.
2/8/17, 6 PM ET, WEDNESDAY
DID CUSTOMS AGENTS AT WASHINGTON AIRPORTS VIOLATE A COURT ORDER?
Did customs officials at Washington airports defy court orders in their enforcement of President Trump's now judicially suspended Executive Order on travel and immigration? The Inspector General of the Homeland Security thinks so. As Politico reports, some Customs and Border Protection officers may have blocked travelers from consulting lawyers when they were detained. In temporarily blocking the President's order, a federal judge also ordered that detainees have the right to consult counsel. Some lawyers claim their clients were not afforded the right even after the court order.
2/7/17, 11 PM ET, TUESDAY
APPEALS COURT GRILLS JUSTICE LAWYER ON TRUMP TRAVEL BAN
A federal appeals court held a hearing this evening on the government's request to stay a ruling last week that blocked the implementation of President Trump's Executive Order on travel and immigration. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held the one-hour hearing by telephone on the government's request to reverse a nationwide temporary restraining order issued last Friday by Judge James Robart. If you're confused by the request to stay a restraining order, you're not alone. Even the three-judge panel seemed unclear on which side--the government or Washington State, which first requested the restraining order--bore the burden of proof. And the judges didn't seem sure if evidence was required or whether the hearing was strictly on procedural issues.
Arguing for the government, August Flentje, a Justice Department lawyer, was closely questioned by the judges on a wide range of matters. His performance was halting and disjointed, possibly because he was assigned the case only hours earlier, after higher-ranking Justice officials stepped aside. Arguing for Washington, Noah Purcell, the state's solicitor general, was more assured and seemed in better command of the facts. But the three-judge panel rattled him on several points, too. You can read a detailed recap of the hearing here. Or listen to the hearing yourself here.
The appeals court says it will rule expeditiously, but did not give a time frame.
2/7/17, 4 PM ET, TUESDAY
MUNOZ OF UNITED: TRUMP TRAVEL POLICY 'DAMNING AND DAMAGING'
United chief executive Oscar Munoz says the Trump Administration's immigration and travel policies are "damning and damaging." His comments come nearly a week after a similar stand against Trump by American Airlines chief executive Doug Parker. Of course, we haven't heard anything from the folks at Delta Air Lines, which may not be a surprise given that Delta officials have tried to cozy up to Trump since the election. Business Insider has full details of Munoz comments.
2/7/17, 2 PM ET, TUESDAY
KELLY THROWS HIMSELF UNDER THE BUS FOR ROLLOUT OF TRUMP ORDER
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly threw himself under the bus today, taking the blame for the atrocious rollout of the equally atrociously written Trump Executive Order on travel and immigration. A former general who was quickly approved by Congress after being appointed by Trump, Kelly was not consulted about the order. Nor did he give his staff and officials of the Customs and Border Protection agency a heads-up before imposing the order and asking them to interpret and implement its directives. Yet he claimed he should have consulted Congress before implementing Trump's rules. He also took the rap for blocking the reentry into the country of legal green card holders and others with valid visas. "In retrospect," Kelly said at a Congressional hearing, "I should have, and this is all on me, by the way, I should have delayed [the order] just a bit so I could talk to members of Congress." Politico has details of the hearing here.
2/5/17, 9:30 AM ET, SUNDAY
APPEALS COURT TURNS AWAY TRUMP ADMINISTRATION--FOR NOW
The federal court of appeals in San Francisco this morning rejected the Trump Administration's appeal of U.S. District Court Judge James Robert's temporary restraining order against President Trump's executive order on immigration and travel. Robart's order on Friday halted nationwide enforcement of Trump's ban and led the State Department to reverse the cancellation of 60,000 visas. The Appeals Court wants both sides to file arguments by 11:59 pm tonight Pacific time. Politico has details of the legal wrangling.
2/3/17, 8:30 PM ET, FRIDAY
A FULL-ON RETREAT, BUT A TEMPORARY ONE
The Trump Administration is in full-on retreat--albeit temporarily--on the President's executive order on immigration and travel. The State Department says it has reversed the revocation of 60,000 visas undertaken this week. And the Department of Homeland Security says it has halted "any and all action" on the Trump ban. That said, however, Homeland Security says it will ask for an emergency stay on Judge Robart's temporary restraining order (see below). And the White House said last night that it would try to overturn Robart's order as soon as feasible.
2/3/17, 8:15 PM ET, FRIDAY
THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION HAS ALREADY REVOKED 100,000 VISAS
The decision of the federal judge in Washington State today to temporarily restrain all of the actionable parts of President Trump's executive order may be even more limited than usual. The Justice Department told a federal court in Virginia today that 100,000 visas have been revoked since last Friday. The State Department later disputed the number, claiming fewer than 60,000 visas have been revoked. And Politico raises the issue of the Trump Administration's outright defiance of court orders. They have been giving travelers the bureaucratic shuffle and slow-walking compliance, the Web site reports.
2/3/17, 8 PM ET, FRIDAY
WASHINGTON STATE FEDERAL JUDGE ISSUES NATIONWIDE RESTRAINING ORDER
A federal judge in Washington State stopped enforcement of all key portions of President Trump's executive order on immigration and travel from seven majority-Muslim nations. U.S. District Judge James Robart issued a temporary restraining order Friday afternoon "on a nationwide basis." The oral ruling enjoins any federal employee from using most parts of the Trump executive order. The case was brought by Washington State attorney general Bob Ferguson, a Democrat. Robart, a Republican nominated to the court by George W. Bush in 2003, said Washington had proven the executive order was causing "immediate and irreparable injury" and that the state was likely to win the underlying lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the travel ban. A written order from Robart is here. Here's how the Seattle Times covered the story.
The Trump Administration lost in several other legal venues today as well, but it did win its first victory in a Boston court. A federal judge today refused to extend a stay that the Boston court had issued late Saturday night. The original court order is scheduled to expire on Sunday, February 5. As Politico explains, U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton believes Trump's order was never meant to block green card holders. Many green card holders were blocked in the first two days after the Trump order was signed, but Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly rolled back the ban earlier this week. Here is a PDF link to Gorton's ruling.
2/2/17, 8:30PM ET, THURSDAY
UBER PARTS WAYS WITH TRUMP
Demonstrations last weekend against President Trump's executive order on immigration first broke out at New York's Kennedy Airport. When New York cabbies stopped picking up riders at JFK in support of the demonstrations, Uber went the other way. It not only continued pickups, it suspended "surge pricing." That infuriated many Uber users and they were further inflamed when they realized that Uber founder Travis Kalanick sat on President Trump's economic advisory board. The result? A swift and apparently effective boycott. Users closed their accounts and deleted the Uber app. Uber today cried uncle. Kalanick resigned from Trump's council.
The Uber action isn't happening in a vacuum, either. Disney chief executive Robert Iger has also left the board since the travel ban was announced. General Electric says Trump's travel ban may cost it a huge contract in Iraq. (Iraq, of course, is one of the seven nations impacted by Trump's order.) Microsoft says it needs exemptions from the travel ban. Comcast employees self-organized an anti-Trump order demonstration. And Yemeni bodega owners in New York went on strike today. Yemen is another of the seven countries covered by Trump's ban.
2/2/17, 8:15PM ET, THURSDAY
DID THE U.S. GOVERNMENT THREATEN TO GROUND A FLIGHT?
The lawsuits--and the stays--keep coming in the legal battle over President Trump's executive order on immigration. The latest in a Boston court claims U.S. government officials threatened to ground a Swiss International flight from Zurich if a holder of a legal visa was on board. The traveler is still grounded even though many courts have already ordered that flyers with valid documents be allowed to travel. Meanwhile, a federal district judge in Los Angeles also has ruled that valid visa holders must be admitted to the country. And a federal district judge in Detroit has permanently enjoined the government from implementing parts of the executive order.
2/2/17, 4PM ET, THURSDAY
ARGUING THE NUMBERS
President Trump claims that just 109 people were detained in the first hours after his executive order on immigration was announced last Friday. As usual for a man who has been repeatedly caught pulling numbers from his, um, wherever, he offers no proof. The government itself, in the form of the Customs and Border Protection Service, says the number is at least 10 times as high. Meanwhile, Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler does a deep dive on the numbers. When you consider all of the people who are currently covered by the ban yet hold valid green-card status and visas, he says the number is more like 90,000. Read the analysis here. Oh, speaking of numbers, Kessler gives Trump "Four Pinocchios" for his 109 claim.
2/2/17, 9AM ET, THURSDAY
TRUMP IS BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER
Who says Donald Trump can't bridge the red-blue divide? That's a lie. Want proof? A former Republican Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, has now joined former Democratic Secretary of State Madeline Albright in denouncing the president's travel ban. It's "ill-considered and badly delivered," she said. Albright called Trump "unprepared" and said "unintended consequences" of travel ban were inevitable. Politico has details on both women's criticism here.
2/1/17, 9PM ET, WEDNESDAY
AMERICAN AIRLINES CALLS OUT TRUMP FOR "DIVISIVE ... TURMOIL"
The travel industry, which literally lives and dies on the free movement of people, has been curiously silent on the Trump travel ban. Maybe they are afraid of offending anyone, especially Trump himself, who tried to throw Delta Air Lines under the bus earlier in the crisis. Which is why you have to give full marks to American Airlines chief executive Doug Parker. He's a rotten CEO running a deteriorating airline, but he knows "divisive" policy and travel "turmoil" when he sees it. And The Washington Post has a background look at how airlines were blindsided by the order. It takes Titanic douchebaggery to make airlines sympathetic. But Trump did promise a different kind of presidency, didn't he?
1/31/17, 7PM ET, TUESDAY
GASLIGHT IN TRUMPLAND
Donald Trump campaigned for president by calling for a complete and total shutdown on Muslims entering the country. He then amended that to the amorphous and mostly meaningless catch phrase "extreme vetting." The Trump Administration claims last Friday's executive order wasn't a "Muslim" ban, although Trump advisor Rudy Giuliani says the president called and asked him to craft a Muslim travel ban that was legally defensible. But the gaslighting in Trumpland is getting weirder. Now White House spokesman Sean Spicer says the order isn't even a "ban." Moreover, he says journalists shouldn't call it a ban. His response to reporters who point out that President Trump himself has called it a "ban?" He says Trump was just using the press' own words. But the press, of course, was merely quoting Trump calling it a ban.
1/31/17, 7:30AM ET, TUESDAY
THE TRUTH? YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!
Some inconvenient truths have emerged after President Trump exercised his prerogative last night and fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates for her legal opinion of his executive order on immigration.
First up: Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, the man slated to get the Attorney General's job. Here's video of him bloviating at Yates' 2015 confirmation hearing. What's he demanding? That Yates promise to oppose the president if she feels he acts improperly. Awkward!
Then we have a transcript of remarks made by Kansas Senator Charles Grassley on the day Yates was confirmed as deputy Attorney General. Grassley, of course, is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the man who's personally chaperoning Sessions' nomination.
"I hope that she will show independence as she provides leadership at the [Justice] Department," he said. "As she told us during her hearing, she is aware that her client is, 'The people of the United States ... not the President ... not the Congress, it's the people of the United States.' "
Of course, there is a mitigating factor here. Sessions and Grassley were reminding Yates of her responsibility to oppose President Obama. President Trump? Not so much.
1/30/17, 10:30PM ET, MONDAY
TRUMP CANS A BUREAUCRAT FOR DOING HER JOB
President Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates tonight after she ordered Justice Department lawyers not to defend the immigration executive order. A holdover from the Obama Administration, Yates was replaced by another Obama appointee, Dana Boente, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. More details are here. In typical Trump fashion, his statement on her dismissal was nasty. Rather than cite the obvious difference of legal opinion, Trump's statement said she "betrayed" the Justice Department and that she was "weak." In fact, the statement had everything except "SAD!," Trump's Twitter trademark. Assuming he doesn't cross Trump, Boente will serve until Attorney General-designate Jeff Sessions is approved by the Senate. Barring a surprise, that should happen this week.
1/30/17, 3:30PM ET, MONDAY
TRUMP'S TOP APPOINTEES SCALE BACK THE TRAVEL BAN
The strange case of the Trump Administrationís rushed executive order on immigration continues to get weird. The newly confirmed Secretary of Homeland Security, John Kelly, has reversed the ban's restriction on U.S. green card holders from the seven "dishonored" countries. The about-face means that legal residents can now actually return to the United States. Meanwhile, newly confirmed Secretary of Defense James Mattis is now compiling a list of Iraqi immigrants who he wants allowed into the country, travel ban be damned.
1/30/17, 2:30PM ET, MONDAY
LOTS OF ANNOYANCE
Here's a follow-up on yesterday's computer outage on Delta Air Lines.
About 100 flights have been cancelled already today, a knock-on effect of the computer issues, which began about 6:30pm ET last night. The systems were not brought back online until nearly midnight.
Delta says it cancelled about 170 flights during the outage. FlightStats.com reported nearly 800 delays yesterday only on Delta mainline flights. Endeavor Air, a wholly owned commuter subsidiary, had 150 delays yesterday, says FlightStats.com. Other commuter lines flying for Delta also had much higher than normal delays and cancellations yesterday.
Delta has not yet explained the outage, which mostly affected domestic takeoffs. Some landings were eventually delayed, too, because there was no gate space at Delta hubs since outbound aircraft were still waiting for departures.
International departures and arrivals were generally unaffected.
Today's cancellations are due mainly to the fact that crews and aircraft were out of position because of yesterday's late-night cancellations and delays.
Several reminders are germane here:
Reaccommodation of Delta customers on delayed and cancelled flights was surely made more difficult because Delta severed its "interline" agreement with American Airlines. As you recall, Delta tried to raise the price American would have to pay Delta to reaccommodate flyers because Delta claimed it was a more reliable carrier. How's that working out for Delta customers?
When Delta had a computer systems breakdown last summer, it tried to blame it on Georgia Power, the electric utility serving Delta's Atlanta headquarters. But Georgia Power immediately pushed back and Delta had to admit it was its own equipment failure, not a GP issue. Keep Delta's predilection for blaming the other guy in mind when it explains what went wrong this time.
Speaking of shifting the blame, President Trump forever obliterated the line between politics and travel. "Only 109 people out of 325,000 were detained and held for questioning. Big problems at airports were caused by Delta computer outage," he tweeted. Both of Trump's statements are a lie, of course--or, if you prefer, "alternative facts." Many more than 109 people were held despite their valid visas and green-card status. And the demonstrations that erupted at airports around the nation began on Saturday morning, about 36 hours before Delta's computers went down.
1/29/17, 10PM ET, SUNDAY
DELTA'S BEEN THERE, GROUNDED THAT
Delta Air Lines is going through another computer meltdown and departing flights are begin held on the ground nationwide. Delta has already blown through several self-proclamied deadlines for lifting the ground stop so it's anyone's guess as to when service will restart. What we do know is that this is the second time in six months that Delta's computers have gone down.
1/29/17, 3PM ET, SUNDAY
FOUR COURTS NOW SLAP DOWN TRUMP TRAVEL BAN
Here's a follow-up on the events surrounding Friday's executive order concerning immigration from President Donald Trump.
At least four federal courts have now stayed parts of his order. Most require the government to allow entry to travelers who were en route to the United States and hold valid visas or green cards. The most far reaching, from a Washington State federal court, ordered Customs and Homeland Security officials not to rely solely on the executive order when making admittance decisions.
The initial ruling came from Judge Ann Donnelly in the Eastern District of New York. Her ruling last night also ordered the government to provide numbers and details of who and how many travelers were being detained. An initial Homeland Security estimate said at least 109 travelers were denied entry. It did not say how many were detained and how many were summarily deported. It is also clear that the 109 number is literally a fraction of those who got caught up in the chaos in the first 24 hours after the order's imposition. Judge Donnelly's ruling is here: https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/darweesh-v-trump-petition-writ-habeas-corpus-and-complaint-declaratory-and-injunctive
Shortly after, Judge Leonie Brinkema of the Eastern District of Virginia issued her stay. Read it here: https://www.justice4all.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/TRO-order-signed.pdf
Almost simultaneously, Judge Allison Burroughs and Magistrate Judge Judith Dein in the Massachusetts District issued a stay: https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3437041/MA-TRO.pdf
Finally, an order came from Thomas Zilly in the Western District of Washington in Seattle: https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3437037/Seattle-Order-20170128.pdf
It appears that most, but not all, of the travelers who entered the country yesterday with valid visas and/or green cards have now been released from detention. There are reports that Customs officials at Washington/Dulles Airport briefly defied Judge Brinkema's order by refusing to allow lawyers to talk to detainees.
The Trump Administration's response to the orders today has been confusing. White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus contradicted himself on Meet the Press when it came to the rights of green card holders to enter the country. Read here: http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/priebus-immigration-order-doesn-t-include-green-card-holders-anyone-n713731
Homeland Security issued a statement that says it will obey court orders but also enforce the executive order. Moreover, it seems to put a numeric value on yesterday's events by claiming "less than one percent" of international travelers were affected. As if trampling on the rights of some are okay--and it certainly didn't say how many hassled travelers would be too many. (A reminder: The TSA, which is a part of Homeland Security, generally has adopted the "only a few" defense under both Democratic and Republican Administrations.) Read Homeland Security's statement here: https://www.dhs.gov/news/2017/01/29/department-homeland-security-response-recent-litigation
On the matter of whether Trump's executive order was, in fact, a "Muslim ban," we now have an answer. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani says it is. Why does he matter? Trump reached out to him to craft the order. Read Giuliani's comments here: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/rudy-giuliani-trump-tasked-craft-muslim-ban-article-1.2958588
Giuliani had trouble explaining why the ban does not cover countries such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Other notable omissions in the order: Egypt, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Lebanon. There have been repeated claims in the last 48 hours that some predominantly Muslim nations were exempted because the Trump Organization has business ties there. That, of course, is speculation, although Trump does have business ties in the exempted nations.
Ironically, some of the first victims of the executive order were Christians, a religious group President Trump specifically said he wanted to assist. Here's a story on those immediately deported this weekend from Philadelphia despite their legal status: http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/real-time/2-Syrian-families-detained-at-PHL-returned-to-Qatar.html And another: http://6abc.com/news/2-syrian-families-detained-at-phl-then-put-on-flight-back-home-/1725786/
OTHER NOTABLE DEVELOPMENTS
IATA, the global airline trade association, advised carriers that the executive order includes crew members on flights arriving in the United States. That will force airlines to adjust staffing to ensure employees won't be caught up in the parts of the ban that remain in effect. Staffing changes have already occurred: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-immigration-emirates-idUSKBN15D0JM
During yesterday's demonstrations at Kennedy Airport in New York, the city's yellow cab drivers refused pickups at JFK to support the demonstrators. Uber, the ride-sharing app, continued pickups, however. It even dropped "surge pricing" during the cabbies' action. Lyft, on the other hand, pledged a $1 million donation to the American Civil Liberties Union, the organization that spearheaded the legal action against the executive order. The result? Many Uber users are cancelling their Uber accounts and switching to Lyft. Here's a story: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/01/deleteuber-users-angry-trump-muslim-ban-scrap-app-170129082003307.html And see this Twitter thread: https://twitter.com/hashtag/deleteuber
Uber claims it is against Trump's ban, but says founder Travis Kalanick is on the president's economic advisory team. See here: https://newsroom.uber.com/standing-up-for-whats-right/
The airport demonstrations were peaceful, but police at Sea-Tac used pepper spray early this morning to disperse crowds. See: http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2017/01/29/immigrant-ban-protest-seatle-sea-tac-airport.cnn
As I said last night, this isn't over. All of the court orders are temporary and do not rule on the long-term merits of the executive order or its legality. The court orders mostly focused on process which, as I also said yesterday, was chaotic. Besides reaching outside the White House to Giuliani, there's plenty of evidence to support the contention that Trump officials did not vet the verbiage with the White House counsel, the Justice Department, Homeland Security or any of the usual legal channels.
1/29/17, 2PM ET, SUNDAY
BOY, THAT HOLOCAUST WAS REALLY INCONVENIENT FOR US ALL, EH?
President Trump signed his executive order on Friday (January 27), Holocaust Remembrance Day. The White House issued a separate statement about the Holocaust that did not mention Jews. When asked about the shocking omission, White House Chief of Staff Priebus said this: "Everyone suffered in the Holocaust, including the Jewish people."
1/28/17, 10PM ET, SATURDAY
PROTESTS ERUPT AT AIRPORTS, JUDGE STAYS TRUMP'S ORDER
I wanted to update you on the Trump Administration's executive order on immigration, protests at major international airports around the country and a stay issued tonight by a federal court at the behest of the American Civil Liberties Union.
As I am sure you know, President Trump signed an executive order yesterday temporarily or indefinitely banning immigration from seven countries. The order was effective immediately and that literally trapped travelers headed to the United States carrying valid entry visas or who were legal permanent residents (i.e. green card holders). Apparently several hundred travelers were in these two categories and they were detained when their planes landed at New York/Kennedy, Chicago/O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth and several other airports. Exact numbers are not known at this time.
Protests against the executive order began earlier today at Terminal 4 at JFK when it was revealed that several Iraqis, including at least one who had worked for U.S. Armed Forces during the Iraq war, were being detained by Customs and Immigrations authorities (ICE). The protests then spread to at least 10 other airports.
The ACLU challenged the executive order this evening in a federal court in Brooklyn. After a hearing, the judge issued an emergency stay. She ordered that no one detained by ICE or other officials after the executive order was signed can be sent out of the country. The stay is apparently nationwide in scope and should cover anyone else in the country and in detention despite holding a valid visa and/or green card.
In essence, the judge's stay preserves the status quo before the executive order. It does not rule on the constitutionality of the Trump Administration's executive order.
BULLET POINTS WORTH NOTING
Trump's executive order was signed yesterday, January 27. Many call it a "Muslim ban" since it applies only to seven Muslim-majority nations and then makes an exception for religious minorities. Moreover, President Trump told several media outlets that he was going to help Christian refugees in the covered countries: Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, Iran, Iraq and Syria
Read the entirety of President Trump's executive order here.
Trump's executive order appears to rest on this clause of U.S. law: "Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate." Read the context here.
The Trump Administration executive order also specifically references the 9/11 terrorist attacks. However, the 19 terrorists tied to 9/11 were mostly from Saudi Arabia and also from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon. None of those countries are covered by the executive order, however.
The Cato Institute, a libertarian-leaning think tank, said today that it could not find a single instance of terrorism in the United States caused by an immigrant of any of the seven "disfavored" nations.
The protests have been largest at JFK's Terminal 4. Airport authorities closed the AirTrain that connects the airport terminals and parking to the city's subway and commuter rail network. Unless you were a ticketed flyer or an airport employee, you couldn't access AirTrain, which stops inside Terminal 4. The AirTrain reopened to all after an order from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Before Cuomo acted, the Port Authority, which operates Kennedy, said the closure to non-ticketed travelers was put "in place for public safety, due to crowding conditions." Cuomo's statement is here.
At this hour, the protests at airports nationwide have been completely peaceful and there have been no arrests.
ICE and Homeland Security officials say the Trump Administration gave them no notice of the executive order. Moreover, they said there was no guidance on how to implement the order. That caused difficulties for ICE and Homeland Security officials trying to understand who could or could not enter the country. Eventually, they decided the ban even covered green card holders and holders of a valid visa if they were nationals of the seven "disfavored" countries.
Immigration lawyers are apparently on the scene at many airports trying to assist family members of people who are or have been detained.
Several airlines reported that they blocked travelers from boarding aircraft headed to the United States if they were residents of those seven countries even if they had valid visas or green cards.
The judge's order also required the government to turn over a list of travelers who are being held at airports even if they have valid visas or green card.
Needless to say, this situation is changing hourly and court challenges are just beginning. The Trump Administration will surely defend its executive order and this could take weeks or months to litigate.
This column is Copyright © 2017 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2017 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.