How easy it was to hit the campaign trail and wow the naifs with lines like this: “We’re gonna win so much, you’re gonna be sick and tired of winning.”
How much harder it is to actually govern – which looks a lot like losing. The kill-Obamacare crusade is already on the skids, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence panel is openly trashing his paranoia about an Obama wiretap, the Gallup poll pegs his approval rating at 39 percent (by far the worst of any eight-week president), the proposed draconian budget is actually dead on arrival…
Then, late yesterday, a federal judge slammed the brakes on his new Muslim travel ban. Then, early today, another federal judge zapped the new Muslim travel ban.
Put your hands together, once again, for the judiciary – which, along with the free and independent press, continues to check and balance the aspiring despot by hammering him with the U.S. Constitution. It makes me proud to be an American.
Federal District Court judge Derrick Watson’s Wednesday ruling, which temporarily halts Trump’s second attempt to curb travel from selected Muslim-majority nations, is well worth reading if only for its pitiless putdowns of Trumpian illogic. Trump predictably lashed out at the ruling last night, calling it “judicial overreach,” which means, of course, that Watson merely did his job.
Trump’s lawyers had argued that the new travel ban doesn’t single out Muslims because the ban itself doesn’t mention Muslims, but Watson wasn’t fooled. He put the ban in context. He cited the long list of public remarks, uttered by Trump and his allies, that specifically singled out Muslims. And singling out Muslims as a religious group violates the Constitution’s prohibition of religious discrimination.
Indeed, Watson signaled his intent during the court hearing: “Do we close our eyes to the sequence of events leading to the executive action? What case says I can’t look at that?” He has every right to look at that. Judges have long assessed the constitutionality of laws and executive orders by studying what previous court decisions call “evidence of intent” and “statements by decisionmakers.”
From Watson’s ruling:
“A reasonable, objective observer – enlightened by the specific historical context, contemporaneous public statements, and specific sequence of events leading to its issuance – would conclude that the Executive Order was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion, in spite of its stated, religiously-neutral purpose…
“A review of the historical background here makes plain why the government wishes to focus on the Executive Order’s text, rather than its context. The record before this court is unique. It includes significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus driving the promulgation of the Executive Order and its related predecessor.”
Watson then recounted some of Trump’s greatest hits, targeting Islam as a religion. On Dec. 7, 2015, the Trump campaign issued a press release: “Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Musilms entering the United States.” On March 9, 2016, Trump told CNN, “I think Islam hates us.” When he was invited to make a distinction between radical islam and Islam itself, he replied, “It’s very hard to separate.” During a presidential debate on Oct. 9, Trump refused to disown the term “Muslim ban,” saying that he preferred to call it “extreme vetting from certain areas of the world.”
On Jan. 28, the day after Trump signed his first travel ban, Trump ally Rudy Giuliani gave the game away during a TV interview: “When (Trump) first announced it, he said ‘Muslim ban.’ He called me up. He said, ‘Show me the right way to do it legally.'” Then, on Feb. 21, after the first ban, which targeted seven Muslim-majority countries, was blocked by federal judge, Trump adviser Stephen Miller gave the game away again. The second ban would target six Muslim-majority countries, and Miller said: “Fundamentally, you’re still going to have the same policy outcome (as the first ban).”
Watson wrote, “There are many more….These plainly worded statements betray the Executive Order’s stated secular purpose. Any reasonable, objective observer would conclude…that the stated secular purpose of the Executive Order is, at the very least, secondary to a religious objective of temporarily suspending the entry of Muslims.”
Trump’s lawyers had pleaded for a different reading. They’d argued that Watson shouldn’t attempt any “psychoanalysis” of Trump’s “veiled psyche” and “secret motives,” but the judge tartly wrote that “there is nothing ‘veiled’…nor is there anything ‘secret’ about the Executive’s motive.” (Plus the fact that none of the terrorist attacks on American soil have been committed by anyone from the six targeted Muslim-majority countries.)
Watson, who’s based in Hawaii, slapped a temporary restraining order on the travel ban, halting it nationally. But he was joined today by a second federal judge, Theodore Chuang, who issued a preliminary injunction. In plain English, Chuang’s halt will last longer than Watson’s halt. Chuang, who’s based in Maryland, essentially wants to put the travel ban on trial. That takes time. And his reasons for halting the ban echo Watson’s:
“(E)xplicit, direct statements of President Trump’s animus toward Muslims, and intention to impose a ban on Muslims entering the United States, present a convincing case that the first executive order was issued to accomplish, as nearly as possible, President Trump’s promised Muslim ban. In particular, the direct statements by President Trump and Giuliani’s account of his conversations with President Trump reveal that the plan had been to bar the entry of nationals of predominantly Muslim countries…in order to approximate a Muslim ban without calling it one.”
All told, Trump faces a protracted battle in an independent branch of government. It must frustrate him that he can’t rule by whim like his Moscow bro.
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