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Barack Obama 'heartened' by scale of protests against Donald Trump's Muslim travel ban

It is all but unprecedented for a former president to comment about a successor's actions

By Andrew Buncombe

In a blasting criticism of Donald Trump’s Muslim travel ban, former president Barack Obama has said he “fundamentally disagrees” with discrimination that targets people based on their religion and was “heartened” by the protests that have been sparked across the country.

“President Obama is heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country,” said a statement issued by his spokesman Kevin Lewis.

“In his final official speech as president, he spoke about the important role of citizens and how all Americans have a responsibility to be the guardians of our democracy - not just during an election but every day.”

Mr Obama has not weighed in on a political issue since leaving office on January 20 and making way for his successor - something that is usual for most presidents.

He has said he plans to give Mr Trump room to govern but has also said he would speak out if the New York tycoon’s actions violated basic US values. Thousands of protests across the country have taken part in demonstrations against the order, insisting that his Muslim travel ban does breach fundamental US values.

In the statement, Mr Obama said was pleased with those citizens who are exercising constitutional rights to assemble and “have their voices heard.”  He also drew a distinction between his policies and those of Mr Trump.

“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,” it said.

On Monday, it had emerged that dozens of US envoys located around the world had prepared a “dissent memo”.

“This ban ... will not achieve its stated aim to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States,” says the draft, obtained by lawfareblog.com.

It also said that Mr Trump's “knee jerk” executive order was based on misguided notions about terrorism in the United States.

“Despite the order’s focus on them, a vanishingly small number of terror attacks on US soil have been committed by foreign nationals who recently entered the US on immigrant or non-immigrant visa,” it says. “Rather, the overwhelmingly majority of attacks have been committed by native-born or naturalised US citizens - individuals who have been living in the US for decades, if not since birth.”

It adds: “In the isolated incidents of foreign nationals entering the US on a visa to commit acts of terror, the nationals have come from a range of countries, (such as Pakistan or Saudi Arabia), which are not covered by the order.”

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