Travel ban challenged in court
The immediate fate of President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees lay in the hands of a federal appeals court this week, with the case likely headed for the U.S. Supreme Court. Enforcement of the ban on immigration and travel from seven Muslimmajority countries was temporarily suspended last week by U.S. District Court Judge James Robart in Seattle, in response to a legal challenge by the attorneys general of Washington and Minnesota. That decision, which opened a window for immigrants from the blacklisted countries to enter the U.S., was immediately challenged by the Justice Department, and on Tuesday a three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments from both sides. The panel’s ruling on whether the travel ban should be suspended until its overall legality is decided will almost certainly be appealed to the Supreme Court.
President Trump tore into Judge Robart on Twitter, criticizing the “so-called judge” for his “ridiculous” ruling, saying it leaves the country vulnerable to terrorist attacks. “If something happens,” the president wrote, “blame him and [the] court system.” The president also called the appeals court “so political,” and accused the “dishonest press” of deliberately failing to report on terrorist attacks. “They have their reasons,” he said. White House officials later released a list of 78 acts of terrorism all over the world that they claimed hadn’t received sufficient coverage, including the widely covered attacks in Paris; Orlando; and San Bernardino, Calif.
What the editorials said
Trump “is right on the law,” though it was foolish of him to pick this fight, said The Wall Street Journal. The Constitution and the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1952 give the president authority to suspend “the entry of any class of aliens” that “would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.” Still, Trump aides Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller “created this mess” by rushing out a “sloppily written” order, and “Trump’s rants again st the judiciary are offensive to the rule of law.”
The authoritarian president has now added “an entire branch of the federal government to his enemies list,” said The New YorkTimes. Trump’s insinuation that Judge Robart—and any judge who doesn’t bend to his will—will be “to blame” for future terrorist attacks was “chilling.” He clearly is seeking to undermine the judiciary, “the most dependable check on his power.” And it also sounds as though Trump plans to “blame meddling courts for any future attack.”
What the columnists said
The executive order is unconstitutional, said Page Pate in CNN.com. It’s clearly a de facto “Muslim ban”— candidate Trump called for a “ban on Muslims,” and his adviser Rudy Giuliani recently boasted on TV that the president had tasked him with crafting a “legal” way to construct such a “Muslim ban.” That intent violates both the “Fifth Amendment guarantee of equal protection” and the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which prohibits the government from giving “preference to one religion over another.” Not so, said Rich Lowry in NationalReview.com. Foreigners seeking admission to the U.S. have “no constitutional rights.” Moreover, the president has always been given extremely wide-ranging powers on national security issues. The courts are “trespassing on a core executive responsibility.”
Trump’s attacks on judges should frighten us all, said Paul Waldman in TheWeek.com. Not only is he preemptively deflecting blame for future terrorist attacks, he may also be setting himself up to “exploit” them. If and when an attack on U.S. soil occurs, Trump will whip up “fear and anger,” announce that he tried to keep America safe but was stymied by meddling judges, order surveillance of mosques and deportations of Muslims, and perhaps even worse. If judges tried to stop him, “there’s a genuine question of whether he’d obey lawful court orders.”
The judiciary isn’t Trump’s only target, said Greg Sargent in WashingtonPost.com. He is now insisting that polls showing that the majority of Americans disapprove of him and his policies are “fake news,” and he continues to deride the media as dishonest and untrustworthy on an almost daily basis. Trump’s motives aren’t hard to discern: Like all authoritarian populists, he insists “the people” support him, and seeks to delegitimize any person or institution that could “place serious, meaningful limits on his power.”