Obama 'heartened' by protests, spokesman says
Former President Barack Obama signaled his support for the protests in response to President Trump's controversial immigration ban, his office said Monday in his first major statement since leaving the White House.
"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.
"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.
Obama's decision to step back into the public light comes just 10 days after he left office. His comments come as a chorus of Democrats criticize Trump for his decision to temporarily halt refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries and stop all Syrian refugee resettlement in America.
Trump has compared his actions to Obama's 2011 moves to restrict entries from Iraq after two Iraqis were arrested in Kentucky on terrorism charges.
Lewis addressed that claim in the statement from Obama's office.
"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," Lewis added.
Former presidents often give their replacements a wide berth in office, rarely weighing in to criticize their actions out of respect for the office.
While Obama served as a vocal critic to Trump on the campaign trail, he told reporters during a trip to Peru last November that he wanted to give Trump the chance to lead without Obama "popping off."
But Obama added that he wouldn't unilaterally remain quiet.
“As an American citizen who cares deeply about our country, if there are issues that have less to do with the specifics of some legislative proposal or battle, but go to core questions about our values and our ideals, and if I think that it's necessary or helpful for me to defend those ideals, then I'll examine it when it comes,” Obama said.
--This report was updated at 3:32 p.m.
The Hill / Ben Kamisar / Jan. 30, 2017