Obama Breaks With Tradition, Issues Statement on Trump Executive Order

January 30, 2017 Updated: January 30, 2017

Following Donald Trump’s election victory, then-President Barack Obama said he wouldn’t speak out against Trump unless he thought U.S. ideals were at stake, saying he wanted to give Trump a chance to pursue his agenda “without somebody popping off” at every turn.

On Monday, however, just 10 days out of office, Obama broke with the tradition of ex-presidents stepping aside quietly to allow their successors space to govern, and released a statement through a spokesman on President Trump’s executive order barring citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations.

“President Obama is heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country,” the statement said, which was released during White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s daily briefing, through spokesman Kevin Lewis on Monday.

Obama’s choice to speak out has broken a longstanding unwritten rule of past presidents going all the way back to Jimmy Carter—to stay silent and keep out of the political fray.

Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush all chose to remain silent on the policies of their successors.

Back in 2009, Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, declined to criticize the newly elected Democrat president, saying he wanted him to succeed and that it was important he had that support. 

“I’m not going to spend my time criticizing him. There are plenty of critics in the arena,” Bush said. “He deserves my silence.”

Former President George W. Bush shakes hands with President Barack Obama during an interfaith memorial service for the fallen police officers and members of the Dallas community, Tuesday, July 12, 2016, at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas. Former first lady Laura Bush is a left and first lady Michelle Obama is at center. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
Former President George W. Bush shakes hands with President Barack Obama during an interfaith memorial service for the fallen police officers and members of the Dallas community at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas on July 12, 2016. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

Meanwhile, Spicer told ABC’s “This Week” that the Obama administration had originally flagged the seven countries—Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, and Somalia—named in Trump’s executive order as “countries of particular concern.”

“The Obama administration put these first and foremost,” Spicer said Sunday.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, in February 2016 Libya, Yemen, and Somalia were added to a list of “countries of concern,” placing restrictions on the Visa Waver Program travel on those who visited them after March 2011.

In the original 2015 law, Iran, Syria, Iraq, and Sudan were already placed on the list, Spicer noted, reported The Hill.

“There’s 46 Muslim-majority countries that are not in this seven,” Spicer said.

Trump’s move has been met with protests and criticism from a number of Democratic officials, ex-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, some Republican officials, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Meanwhile, a New York state judge ruled against Trump’s executive order on Saturday night.