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Former President Barack Obama spoke out through a spokesman praising protesters opposed to President Donald Trump’s executive order barring people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.
Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis released a statement saying that the former president was “heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country.”
“Citizens exercising their Constitutional rights 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,” Lewis said.
Though the statement avoided criticizing Trump directly, Lewis said that the president “fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.”
Former Trump transition official Rudy Giuliani told Fox News on Saturday that the order was originally conceived as a Muslim ban, though Trump administration officials dispute that the ban equates to religious discrimination.
Obama’s statement is his first official critique of Trump’s presidency.
Though Obama largely avoided public clashes with Trump during the transition between his administration and Trump’s, the former president pledged to criticize Trump if America’s “core values” are at stake, citing Trump’s previous threat to deport so-called “DREAMers,” or immigrants brought to the US as children.
Asked about Obama’s statement during Monday’s press briefing, current White House press secretary Sean Spicer did not respond to requests for comment.
Read the full statement below:
“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.
“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.
“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.”