The full statement from the State Department’s Victoria Nuland is below:
The decisions and declarations announced on November 22 raise concerns for many Egyptians and for the international community. One of the aspirations of the revolution was to ensure that power would not be overly concentrated in the hands of any one person or institution. The current constitutional vacuum in Egypt can only be resolved by the adoption of a constitution that includes checks and balances, and respects fundamental freedoms, individual rights, and the rule of law consistent with Egypt’s international commitments. We call for calm and encourage all parties to work together and call for all Egyptians to resolve their differences over these important issues peacefully and through democratic dialogue.
“What I am working to achieve is political and economic stability. This is what I want,” Morsi told his followers at the palace. “I am not worried about the presence of opposition. I am careful to allow a strong opposition that will strictly monitor me. My decisions were aimed at preserving our nation, our people, and the revolution.”…
“I don’t like, and don’t want, and there is no need, to use exceptional measures,” Morsi said. He hinted that members of the judiciary and Mubarak-era officials “are gnawing the bones of the nation” and they “must be held accountable.”…
“The state is crumbling. The law is being completely sidestepped. We are now a lawless country,” said protester Nermin Tahoon. “Morsi disguised the revolution’s demands into a twisted package so he could assume all power. Since when was he a revolutionary? He’s barely a reformist. He simply wants power for him and his followers.”
Assailants attacked the hundreds of protesters who marched on Egypt’s High Judiciary Court in downtown Cairo to protest against Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s recent decree granting himself near-absolute powers, including freeing his decisions from judicial review and ordering retrials for former top officials, including his predecessor, the deposed Hosni Mubarak.
The protesters gathered in front of the High Court as members of the Judiciary General Assembly mulled measures to oppose Morsi’s highly-controversial decree.
They chanted “the people demand the downfall of the regime” and “Freedom, Bread, the dissolution of constituent assembly,” in reference to the embattled Islamist-dominated constitution writing body.
In a statement, the Supreme Judicial Council called his move “an unprecedented attack on the independence of the judiciary and its rulings,” and called on him to reverse it.
Judges and prosecutors in Egypt’s second city Alexandria have gone on strike in protest, saying they will not return to work until the decree is reversed.
The BBC’s Jon Leyne in Cairo says the response of the judges has been tough, if fairly predictable.
There had been reports that the council was about to disband the constituent assembly for a second time, he added, a move that could seriously derail the transition to democracy and further delay new parliamentary elections.
The judges’ council’s stand against the president sets the ground for an uneasy alliance between former regime officials and activist groups that helped topple Mubarak’s regime and have in the past derided those officials as “felool,” or remnants.
The presidents’ opponents nonetheless see the judiciary as the only remaining civilian branch of government with a degree of independence, since Morsi already holds executive power and as well as legislative authority due to the dissolution of parliament…
[Morsi] removed on Thursday the country’s longtime attorney general, widely seen as a Mubarak holdover who did not effectively pursue the many cases against former regime officials accused of corruption, and ordered the retrial of former officials if new evidence against them is brought forth.
The ousted attorney general, Abdel Maguid Mahmoud, appeared before the judges’ club on Saturday — his first public appearance since Morsi’s decree. He was greeted by raucous applause and cries of “Illegitimate! Illegitimate!” in reference to the president’s decision, and read out a statement saying judicial authorities are looking into the legality of the president’s decision to remove him.
“There is no room for dialogue when a dictator imposes the most oppressive, abhorrent measures and then says ‘let us split the difference’,” ElBaradei said in an interview with Reuters and The Associated Press after talks with opposition figures.
ElBaradei, who said he expected to be coordinator of a new opposition National Salvation Front, said Morsi’s declaration threatened Egypt’s troubled transition to democracy and actions were needed to stop a “cycle of violence”…
“I am waiting to see, I hope soon, a very strong statement of condemnation by the US, by Europe and by everybody who really cares about human dignity,” ElBaradei said, speaking from his villa on the outskirts of Cairo.
Perhaps the highest priority is to take over the court system by appointing Islamist judges. During the late Mubarak regime, judges were among the most courageous of dissidents, issuing decisions the government doesn’t like. After the revolution, judges gave rulings against the Brotherhood’s goals, for example, saying that the election of parliament—which is three-quarters Islamist—was illegal. Mursi wants to reverse this ruling by decree rather than face new elections where Islamist vote totals will probably plummet.
The other key institutions are the armed forces, where top generals have already resigned, and the religious establishment. While the chiefs of Egypt’s religious system, including the powerful mosque-university al-Azhar, are hardly liberal, they are also not systematic Islamists or Brotherhood supporters. Once such people are replaced with loyalists, the Brotherhood will have the power to define Islam itself…
The Egyptian regime’s cooperation on a Gaza ceasefire, then, was in large part intended to defuse any reaction against its movement toward dictatorship at home. It is doubtful, for example, that the Obama administration will condemn the new decree giving Mursi total power in the country. And Egypt will get almost $10 billion in aid from the United States, European Union, and International Monetary Fund, even as it becomes a repressive, Islamist state.