27 Former Attorneys of Wall Street Law Firm Sullivan & Cromwell Call on Trump’s Nominee for SEC Chair to Denounce Trump’s Travel Ban
I have joined 26 other former attorneys of Sullivan & Cromwell in signing an open letter to Jay Clayton, a Sullivan & Cromwell partner who has been named by Donald Trump to head the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. In our letter, we call upon Mr. Clayton to speak out against Donald Trump’s travel ban. The full text of our letter is set forth below.
A NY Times article discussing our open letter can be found here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/16/business/dealbook/sec-nominee-travel-ban-trump-jay-clayton.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share.
[Open Letter of March 16, 2017]
We the undersigned are former attorneys of Sullivan & Cromwell. As your colleagues in the legal profession and your former colleagues at the firm, we congratulate you on your recent nomination by President Donald J. Trump to the position of Chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Not all of us have worked directly with you. But by observation and reputation each one of us regards you as a person of professionalism and integrity and as a leader of the firm, our profession and our community.
We write to ask you, as a leader of the firm, our profession and our community, to speak out against President Trump’s Executive Order 13769 of January 27, 2017 and subsequent Executive Order 13780 of March 6, 2017—both entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States”—and the actions of the current administration relating to the Executive Orders.
We are certain that you are familiar with the recent actions and statements of the President, and the administration you have been asked to serve, regarding individuals of the Islamic faith and regarding the entry into the United States of refugees and immigrants.
We have observed these actions and statements with growing alarm.
On January 27, 2017, President Trump signed Executive Order 13769, which, among other things, suspended for 90 days the entry into the United States of citizens of the Muslim-majority countries of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya; suspended all United States refugee admissions for 120 days; and suspended indefinitely the entry of all Syrian nationals as refugees.
We are aware, as you must be, of the disturbing reports and allegations regarding the implementation of Executive Order 13769 by officials of this administration. Those reports and allegations include: that such officials have detained individuals to whom the United States has already granted legal permanent residency; that they have pressured holders of lawfully issued U.S. visas to waive their rights under those visas and leave this
country under threat of deportation; that they have barred detainees from speaking with legal counsel; and that they have acted in contempt of federal court orders to desist.
We hope you understand that we oppose any such actions and the harm they threaten to inflict on countless individuals and their families, and the moral standing and security of the United States.
On March 6, 2017, the President issued Executive Order 13780, to take effect March 16, 2017, superseding Executive Order 13769 and modifying its terms in response to judicial scrutiny and public criticism. Among other things, the March 6 Executive Order exempts U.S. legal permanent residents and individuals holding valid visas on the effective date of the Executive Order (Sections 3(a), 3(b)), and no longer suspends entry to the United States by Iraqi nationals (Sections 1(g), 2(c)).
Executive Order 13780 again suspends for 90 days the entry to the United States of any citizen of Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia or Libya who is not covered by an exemption or a discretionary waiver by U.S. officials, and states that these individuals “present heightened risks to the security of the United States” (Sections 1(e), 2(c)). The revised Executive Order also reinstates the President’s suspension of refugee admissions for
120 days (Section 6(a)).
We cannot predict either the further modifications that may be made to the
Executive Order, or the course of the ongoing litigation relating thereto. We have noted, however, the administration’s statements that the revised Executive Order does not reflect any change in the intentions or the policy of this administration. We believe that despite any such modifications, the revised Executive Order will continue to cause needless confusion,
suffering and fear.
Among those directly affected by the Executive Orders are members of the
legal profession seeking to join U.S.-based firms such as Sullivan & Cromwell. Thanks to the uncertainty created by the Executive Orders, for example, law graduates who have earned and accepted offers of employment at U.S. firms now fear they will be unable to practice in the
United States, merely because they are citizens of countries identified in the Executive Orders. Signatories to this letter already know of students who have been so affected.
We believe the issues surrounding the Executive Orders to be of such importance that all of President Trump’s nominees to serve this administration should be asked, during the confirmation process, to state for the record whether they support or oppose the Executive Order, either in its original or revised form; whether they agree with the actions that have been taken to implement the Executive Orders; and whether they accept or reject this administration’s ongoing efforts to ban refugees and Muslims—including many of our colleagues in the legal profession and, in all likelihood, some of your past, present and future colleagues at the firm—from entering the United States. We intend to call on our congressional representatives to demand as much.
When the time comes to record your own position, we ask that you honor the values of our profession, our community and our country by unequivocally opposing the Executive Orders and the unlawful, cruel and shameful actions of this administration.
We have no doubt that as Chairman of the SEC you will fulfill your
responsibilities with integrity and in keeping with those values. We trust that, in carrying out those responsibilities, you will continue to oppose unlawful actions and abuse of power by this administration, as we are asking you to do now.
By refusing to remain silent on this matter, you will join us and the many others in our community who have stood, and will continue to stand, in defense of those targeted at the order of the President you are about to serve—in the courts, in the streets, in airport terminals in New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and elsewhere. We believe that our present circumstances demand no less.
Very truly yours,
M. Shams Billah
Julie Bellware Crampton
Marine Le Quillec
Damien G. Scott
Benjamin J. Wolfert
[A slightly modified version of this op-ed first appeared in The Gazette, the student newspaper at Western University in London, Ontario.]
In June 1967, during the Six-Day War, Israel began its occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Less than six months later, the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 242. Resolution 242 invoked the foundational international legal principle of the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” and called for “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.”
Almost 50 years later, the occupation grinds on. Most Palestinians living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have spent their entire lives under the jackboot of Israeli military oppression.
Not only has Israel’s brutal occupation endured for half a century, but throughout that time, Israel has forcibly confiscated more and more occupied territory to make way for Jewish-only settlements. In 2004, the International Court of Justice unanimously ruled (with the concurrence of the United States judge) that Israel’s settlements violate article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Article 49 states “Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.”
The international community has repeatedly condemned Israel’s settlements. The most recent example is U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334, adopted in December 2016 by a vote of 14-0. Resolution 2334 “reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.” Consistently with Resolution 2334, Canada’s government acknowledges on its Global Affairs website that the settlements violate the Fourth Geneva Convention and constitute a “serious obstacle to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.”
On February 6, 2017, Israel’s Knesset responded to Security Council Resolution 2334 with an act of supreme chutzpah: it passed a ‘Settlement Regulation’ Law which purported to legalize retroactively dozens of wildcat settlements.
Israel’s violations of international law are by no means limited to its ever-expanding settlements and its endless occupation. Internationally renowned human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, have long documented Israel’s torture – including the torture of children, its use of collective punishment (another violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention), its indefinite detention without due process of peaceful Palestinian dissenters, and its ‘extrajudicial assassinations’ (a euphemism for murder).
How has Israel gotten away with these crimes for so long? The answer is simple enough: a law that is never enforced is a dead letter. Although the international community has repeatedly condemned Israel’s human rights abuses, Western governments have shielded Israel from any meaningful sanctions, and have accorded to it a privileged status. Indeed, in 2016, the Obama administration granted Israel, a wealthy state possessing the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal, the largest military aid package in United States history.
In response to Israeli impunity during decades of lawlessness, over 170 Palestinian citizens’ organizations have called for the use of boycott, divestment and sanctions, or “BDS”. The BDS movement is a peaceful, anti-racist movement modelled on the boycott movement that helped to bring an end to South African apartheid. Yet Western governments, anxious to perpetuate Israel’s impunity, have sought to demonize the BDS movement. Recently, Conservative and Liberal MPs and MPPs voted to condemn the BDS movement in Canada’s Parliament and Ontario’s legislature.
But Canadians aren’t buying it. This year, a new poll conducted by EKOS Research Associates shows that 78% of those who expressed an opinion believe that a boycott is a reasonable measure to ensure Israel’s respect for international law. Sixty-six percent of those who expressed an opinion said that Canadian government sanctions on Israel would also be a reasonable deterrence measure. The EKOS poll showed that most Canadians oppose Parliament’s condemnation of the boycott movement, while only 26% support it.
It is in this context that students of King’s College have brought forward a resolution supportive of the boycott campaign. King’s students will vote on that resolution on March 13 and 14. In advance of the vote, Israel’s apologists on Western’s campus have sought to misrepresent the nature of the BDS movement. They falsely conflate the state of Israel with all Jews, and assert that boycotting companies that are complicit in violations of Palestinian human rights is tantamount to persecution of the Jewish people.
But this claim conveniently ignores that that the boycott movement does not target the Jewish people, and never has. On the contrary, it targets – peacefully – human rights violators. Indeed, the BDS movement is supported by many Jewish intellectuals, and by rapidly growing Jewish organizations that advocate for Palestinian rights, including Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky, Independent Jewish Voices Canada, and Jewish Voice for Peace. More and more, members of the Jewish community declare that the government of Israel does not speak for them, and that its inhumane oppression of the Palestinian people is an affront to Jewish values.
Indeed, Israel’s regime of occupation and dispossession is an affront to our most basic sense of human decency. By supporting a boycott of those who profit from that regime, the students of King’s would do nothing more – and nothing less – than stand up for human decency.
In 2012, NASA scientist James Hansen wrote in the New York Times that, if Canada continues to exploit the vast oil reserves in its tar sands, then it’s “game over for the climate”. In this interview on The Real News, I explain that Canada’s Trudeau government seems hell-bent on bringing the game to an end:
On the Real News, I discuss the Trudeau government’s disregard for public opinion in regard to electoral reform and Israel/Palestine. My interview can be seen here:
March 1, 2017
A second batch of results from an EKOS survey of Canadians’ attitudes towards Israel reveals a dramatic schism between Canadian government policy and Canadians’ deep concerns about Israel’s violations of international law. The first release on February 16th revealed Canadians’ mostly negative opinion of the Israeli government and their feeling that Canada’s government was pro-Israel. This release reveals overwhelming acceptance of sanctions and boycotts as “reasonable” means to pressure Israel to adhere to international law.
For example, 91% believe that sanctions are a reasonable way to censure countries violating human rights and international law. That number drops to 66% when respondents were asked whether “government sanctions on Israel would be reasonable.”
“The number of respondents who support sanctions drops when talk turns to Israel, but that number is heavily skewed by Conservative supporters, 70% of whom reject sanctions on Israel,” said Diana Ralph of Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV). Receptiveness to sanctions on Israel from supporters of other parties ranged from 75% for Liberals to 94% for the Bloc Quebecois. Eighty-four percent of NDP respondents regarded sanctions on Israel as reasonable.
Similar openness to the Palestinian call for a boycott of Israel was revealed in the survey. Seventy-eight percent of those surveyed believe the Palestinians’ call for a boycott is “reasonable.” Again, Conservative supporters expressed radically different views from respondents of other parties: 51% rejected a boycott. Supporters of other parties who were receptive to the Palestinian call for a boycott ranged from 88% for Liberals to 94% for the Bloc Quebecois.
“These results are particularly stunning in light of the vilification of those calling for sanctions and boycotts by leaders of both the Conservative and Liberal parties,” said Tom Woodley of CJPME. “While calls for boycotts and sanctions have been denounced as ‘the new anti-Semitism,’ two thirds of Canadians apparently disagree; 66% of respondents were receptive to sanctions and 78% to boycotts.” Results from the earlier survey release cast serious doubts about acceptance of the notion of a ‘new anti-Semitism’: 91% of respondents rejected the notion that criticism of Israel was necessarily anti-Semitic.
In February, 2016, the House of Commons passed a resolution condemning those who support sanctions and boycotts against Israel. When asked whether or not they support this condemnation, 53% of survey respondents said no and 26% answered yes. Almost twice as many Conservative supporters answered yes but a significant number – 33% – said no.
Former Green Party Justice critic Dimitri Lascaris highlighted the enormous gap between the Trudeau government’s blanket support for the Israeli government and the very critical position of a strong majority of Canadians. “Since taking office in late 2015, the Trudeau government has voted against United Nations resolutions that were critical of Israel on over twenty-five occasions. It has never voted in favour of a U.N. resolution that is critical of Israel, putting Canada at odds with all but the US, Israel and four tiny island states.”
The survey, conducted in the last week of January and early February, was co-sponsored by a coalition consisting of Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV), Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), Dimitri Lascaris and political commentator Murray Dobbin.
A detailed report on the second batch of the EKOS survey results can be viewed here: http://www.cjpme.org/survey.
On the Real News, with Earl Washburn of EKOS Research Associates, Dimitri explains why the Canadian government’s lavish support for Israel is undemocratic: