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Saturday 14 December 2019

Barack Obama says Donald Trump's immigration proposals 'not the America we want'

President Barack Obama speaking at the Treasury Department
President Barack Obama speaking at the Treasury Department

US President Barack Obama has criticised Donald Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric and said the Republican presidential nominee's immigration proposals are "not the America we want".

Speaking to reporters after a briefing on the Orlando shooting, Mr Obama said Mr Trump's call for tougher talk on terrorism and a strict ban on Muslim immigration would undermine American values.

Mr Obama said the proposals would make Muslim Americans feel betrayed by their government.

The president's remarks were his first reaction to Mr Trump's speech on Monday after the mass shooting on Sunday.

Mr Obama said Mr Trump's plan to bar foreign Muslims from entering the US ignored America's history of targeting ethnic and religious groups amid period of anxiety.

"We've gone through moments in our history before when we acted out of fear and we came to regret it," Mr Obama told reporters. "We've seen our government mistreat our fellow citizens and it has been a shameful part of our history."

"Where does this stop?" he said.

Mr Obama directly addressed a specific critique lodged not only by Mr Trump, but by other top Republicans, that his counter-terrorism efforts have been hampered by his refusal to use the phrase "radical Islam" when describing the forces urging attacks like the one in Orlando.

"There's no magic to the phrase 'radical Islam,'" he said. "If someone seriously thinks we don't know who we're fighting, if there's anyone out there who thinks we're confused about who our enemies are, that would come as a surprise to the thousands of terrorists we've taken off the battlefield."

Mr Obama argued that treating Muslim-Americans differently will not make the US safer. He said it will make the country less safe by fuelling the notion among followers of the Islamic State group that the West hates Muslims.

Mr Obama lashed out a day after presumptive Republican nominee revived his proposal to temporarily ban foreign Muslims from entering the US.

He said the US was founded on freedom of religion and that there are no religious tests in America. He said such talk makes Muslim-Americans feel like their government is betraying them.

Mr Obama commented after meeting with his national security advisers on the threat posed by IS. He was also briefed on the investigation into the Orlando nightclub shooting.

He said the military campaign against the Islamic State group is "firing on all cylinders" with coalition forces taking out more than 120 of the group's top leaders and commanders.

Hillary Clinton also criticised Mr Trump.

She said: "We don't need conspiracy theories and pathological self-congratulations. We need leadership and concrete plans because we are facing a brutal enemy."

Mrs Clinton called on "responsible Republicans" to denounce Mr Trump's accusations about Mr Obama's loyalties, noting that "history will remember what we do in this moment".

She also attacked Mr Trump for his criticism of Democrats' refusal to call the attacks "radical Islamic extremism".

"Is Donald Trump suggesting that there are magic words that once uttered will stop terrorists from coming after us?" she asked union members at a campaign event in Pittsburgh, echoing Mr Obama's comments.

Mrs Clinton's campaign believes her sober view of national security could win over independents and Republicans disturbed by Mr Trump's inexperience and provocative rhetoric.

On Monday, Mr Trump focused much of his response to the Orlando shooting on Mrs Clinton, accusing her of backing immigration policies that would spur a wave of extremism on US soil.

Earlier that day, he suggested that Mr Obama was sympathetic to Islamic extremists, saying: "People cannot, they cannot believe that President Obama is acting the way he acts and can't even mention the words 'radical Islamic terrorism.' There's something going on."

Mrs Clinton called his comments "shameful" and "disrespectful".

"It is yet more evidence that he is temperamentally unfit and totally unqualified to be commander in chief," she said.

On Monday, the presumptive Democratic nominee delivered a speech in which she offered a policy-laden response to the shooting, stressing the need for national unity and a coordinated approach to "lone wolf" attacks. She never mentioned Mr Trump's name - though she alluded to some of his campaign slogans.

Less than 24 hours later, Mrs Clinton set aside that restraint, even as she called for national unity.

Mr Trump, she said, "needs to distract us from the fact that he has nothing substantive to say".

PA Media

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