President Donald Trump signs an executive order on extreme vetting during an event at the Pentagon in Washington, Friday, Jan. 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Susan Walsh

With his Muslim ban struggling, Trump lashes out at judiciary

Updated
Late Friday, just a week after Donald Trump unveiled his Muslim ban through an executive order, a federal court blocked implementation of the policy. The Republican administration immediately appealed, but the 9th U.S. Circuit didn’t accept the White House’s plea to allow the ban to continue.

For now, the president’s controversial directive is on hold.

Team Trump didn’t exactly accept these developments with dignity. The White House issued a statement on Friday night, declaring, “At the earliest possible time, the Department of Justice intends to file an emergency stay of this outrageous order.” Roughly 11 minutes later, the White House sent out an identical statement, except this time, the word “outrageous” was omitted.

The next morning, the president decided to share some additional thoughts via Twitter, starting with this deeply unfortunate message.
“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!”
None of this made sense – no one has taken law enforcement away from the United States, whatever that’s supposed to mean – and the idea that a sitting president would trash a federal judge directly like this has few parallels in the American tradition.

In 2010, President Obama used his State of the Union address to denounce the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, and much of the Beltway establishment went berserk, characterizing the Democrat’s remarks as an assault on the federal judiciary.

Seven years later, we have a Republican throwing a tantrum about a “so-called judge” – who happens to be a Bush/Cheney appointee who was confirmed unanimously by the Senate – which followed racist criticisms of a different federal judge during his campaign.

But Trump wasn’t done tweeting. The president added, “What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.?” None of this was true – Trump remains woefully uninformed about the existing vetting process – but, alas, he was just getting started.

“The judge opens up our country to potential terrorists and others that do not have our best interests at heart,” Trump added. “Bad people are very happy!” It was hard not to get the impression that if terrorists were to launch a successful attack, the president was laying the rhetorical groundwork to blame the federal judiciary – an idea he made explicit in yet another tweet yesterday: “Just cannot  believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”

Note that the president is already trying to shield himself from responsibility, blaming the courts for hypothetical violence, all while lying about the process.

“Because the ban was lifted by a judge, many very bad and dangerous people may be pouring into our country,” Trump went on to say, ignoring the facts about how visitors and refugees reach American soil. “A terrible decision.”

It’s worth remembering that Trump’s hand-picked acting Attorney General warned him about his executive order’s dubious legality, and for her trouble, the president fired her.

Finally, he concluded, “Why aren’t the lawyers looking at and using the Federal Court decision in Boston, which is at conflict with ridiculous lift ban decision?” In context, “the lawyers” refer to the attorneys working at Trump’s own Justice Department. If he finds the judicial process confusing – this really is the sort of thing a president should have a rudimentary understanding of – he has an army of lawyers who could explain the basics to him whenever he asks.

Not surprisingly, the fact that Trump has publicly trashed two federal courts, and the judicial system he apparently finds baffling, is likely to reverberate for a while.

“The President’s attack on Judge James Robart, a Bush appointee who passed with 99 votes, shows a disdain for an independent judiciary that doesn’t always bend to his wishes and a continued lack of respect for the Constitution, making it more important that the Supreme Court serve as an independent check on the administration,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement over the weekend.

The Democratic senator added, “With each action testing the Constitution, and each personal attack on a judge, President Trump raises the bar even higher for Judge Gorsuch’s nomination to serve on the Supreme Court. His ability to be an independent check will be front and center throughout the confirmation process.”


Donald Trump, Federal Courts and Federal Judiciary

With his Muslim ban struggling, Trump lashes out at judiciary

Updated