The administration on Sunday attempted to put a positive face on a weekend of embarrassing judicial setbacks that at least temporarily put President Donald Trump’s controversial immigration ban on hold after a week of global protests of Trump’s hard hitting and disruptive executive orders.
Vice President Mike Pence -- the administration’s chief tactician for damage control – appeared on four major talk shows today arguing that a federal court judge’s ruling on Friday night against Trump’s hastily implemented actions against tens of thousands of foreign travelers would soon be reversed.
Pence insisted that a majority of Americans overwhelmingly approve Trump’s tough action to root out potential terrorists – despite criticism that the order has created chaos and uncertainty at airports throughout the world and is a blot on the country’s tradition of welcoming immigrants of all religions, including Muslims.
“We believe the judge made the wrong decision,” Pence said on Fox News Sunday. “We’re going to continue to use all legal means at our disposal to sustain that order and move forward and take the steps necessary to protect our country.”
Noting that there is no unanimity among lower court judges on the constitutionality of Trump immigration order, Pence added, “We don’t appoint judges to our district courts to conduct foreign policy or to make decisions about our national security.”
“From the very outset of his campaign for president and the outset of his administration, President Trump has made clear he’s going to put the security of the American people first,” Pence added. “It is quite clear that the President has the ability to determine who has access to this country when it comes to national security.
Trump fumed and lashed out this weekend after a federal judge in Seattle late Friday ordered a nationwide halt to enforcement of Trump’s week-old order temporarily barring citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries – including Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen – pending an extensive review of U.S. immigration policies.
The bellicose chief executive derisively referred to the judge as a “so-called judge” in a tweet and denounced his ruling as “ridiculous” and contrary to the nation’s best interest. His tweets were reminiscent of Trump’s attacks last year on Gonzalo Curiel, a federal district judge in California of Mexican descent who was hearing a fraud case brought against the now-defunct Trump University.
But despite the latest presidential histrionics, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco early Sunday rejected the Justice Department’s request that it immediately overturn the ruling of the federal judge, James Robart, who was appointed by former Republican President George W. Bush.
Robart’s ruling is contrary to another federal court decision in Boston earlier last Friday that upheld Trump’s executive order. Robart’s decision was much broader than the Boston ruling, and it forced the State Department to reverse its cancellation of as many as 60,000 visas.
It also prompted the Department of Homeland Security and immigration and customs officials to once again permit travelers from the targeted Muslim countries to enter this country, and many started trickling in over the weekend.
The Ninth Circuit appellate court has asked the attorney general of Washington State, who brought the complaint, and the Justice Department to file additional briefs by Monday. Regardless of how the appeals court finally rules, the question of whether Trump’s executive order was a valid exercise of presidential power or blatant religious discrimination against Muslims is certain to be resolved by the Supreme Court.
Thousands of protesters marched on London Saturday for the second time in a week, to oppose Trump’s ban on travelers from mainly Muslim nation entering the U.S. Meanwhile, an estimated 1,000 people marched in West Palm Beach, Fla., yesterday, near Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, to protest his policies. Some carried a flag-draped coffin that symbolized the death of democracy, according to the Washington Post.
Democrats have charged that Trump has recklessly exaggerated the impact of Robart’s temporary order by warning that “many very bad and dangerous people may be pouring into our country” because of the judge’s ruling. They also complained that Trump is attempting to intimidate the independence of the judiciary, at the same time he seeks to convince Senate Democrats that his nominee to the Supreme Court, Neil M. Gorsuch, would be a staunchly independent conservative voice on the High Court.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said today that she is alarmed that Trump has issued “a blizzard of executive orders and memoranda” since he took office Jan. 20, including some like the immigration order that was hastily drafted and “most probably unlawful.”
Feinstein said that notwithstanding Trump’s complaints about Robart’s temporary ruling, the federal court “has a right to make a judgment whether a law or order is lawful and constitutional – and that process has begun. The president is not a dictator,” she said during an appearance on Fox News Sunday. “He is the chief executive of our country.”
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) seemed to be criticizing Trump for attempting to belittle the Seattle judge for ruling against his executive order. McConnell said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program that it is “best to avoid criticizing judges individually.”
However, Pence once again came to the defense of his boss, saying during an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press that “The President of the United States has every right to criticize the other two branches of government.”
“We have a long tradition of that in this country,” Pence said. “I think that people find it very refreshing that they not only understand this president’s mind but they understand how he feels about things.”