President Donald Trump pauses before signing an executive order about regulatory reform in the Oval Office of the White House February 24, 2017 in Washington, DC.

In Trump’s latest defeat, court smacks down another executive order

After railing against presidential executive orders for a couple of years as a candidate, Donald Trump and his White House team have dramatically changed course, bragging about the Republican’s penchant for executive orders. That may not have been wise.

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While Team Trump points to these orders as evidence of the administration’s governing progress, the fact remains that many of the directives are little more than glorified press releases, with little to no policy impact. As for the orders that are substantively significant, the president keeps finding those policies blocked in the courts.
A federal judge Tuesday blunted the impact of one of President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration, forbidding the White House from withhold federal funds from sanctuary cities –local governments that limit police cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

Federal District Court Judge William Orrick issued a nationwide injunction in response to a lawsuit filed by San Francisco and nearby Santa Clara County. They argued that the president’s January 25th executive order, declaring sanctuary cities ineligible to receive federal grants, was unconstitutional.
In an injunction (pdf) that reflected the judge’s apparent annoyance with the Trump administration’s bad argument, Orrick wrote, “Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration enforcement strategy of which the President disapproves.”

The White House can’t say it wasn’t warned ahead of time that this would happen. Pretty much everyone told Team Trump it was likely to lose this case – and that’s exactly what’s happening.

Making matters slightly worse, while the Justice Department’s attorneys were in court arguing that the president’s executive order was very narrow in scope, Trump and his White House team were saying the opposite in public, and the judge in this case chose to take the president’s own words seriously.

Or as Orrick put it, “If there was doubt about the scope of the Order, the President and Attorney General have erased it with their public comments.”

If this sounds familiar, it’s because the White House ran into the exact same problem with Trump’s Muslim ban – twice – proving once again that the president and his team are often their own worst enemies.

The White House isn’t responding well to its latest legal setback, issuing an angry statement last night that reads like a missive from a far-right blog – note the multiple references to the “unelected judge” and the phrase “blood of dead Americans on their hands” – and that was before Trump himself decided to start tweeting this morning.

“First the Ninth Circuit rules against the ban & now it hits again on sanctuary cities - both ridiculous rulings,” the president wrote. “See you in the Supreme Court!”

Let’s put aside, for now, the fact that Orrick is a district-court judge who does not sit on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Instead, let’s note that the last time Trump told his perceived enemies, “SEE YOU IN COURT,” his White House quietly retreated, so this latest rhetoric is easily ignored.

The president’s follow-through problem makes it awfully easy to ignore his chest-thumping.

Donald Trump, Sanctuary Cities and White House

In Trump's latest defeat, court smacks down another executive order