Trump thwarted again as appeal court rejects US government’s bid to enforce travel ban
A US appeal court has denied a request from the US Department of Justice to immediately restore a immigration order from President Donald Trump barring citizens from seven mainly Muslim countries and temporarily banning refugees.
The court ruling dealt a further setback to Trump, who has denounced the judge in the state of Washington who blocked his January 27 order on Friday. In tweets and comments to reporters, the president has insisted he will get the ban reinstated.
In a brief order, the appeals court said the government’s request for an immediate administrative stay on the Washington judge’s decision had been denied. It was awaiting further submissions from Washington and Minnesota states on Sunday, and from the government on Monday.
The government’s appeal says the decision by judge James Robart in Washington posed an immediate harm to the public, thwarted enforcement of an executive order and “second-guesses the president’s national security judgment about the quantum of risk posed by the admission of certain classes of (non-citizens) and the best means of minimising that risk”.
Trump denounced the “so-called judge” in a series of tweets on Saturday.
“We’ll win. For the safety of the country, we’ll win,” he told reporters at his private Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, shortly after the Justice Department filed a notice late on Saturday that it intends to appeal the order.
The US Justice Department appealed at the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, citing the “sovereign prerogative” of a president to admit or exclude aliens.
That court is considered the nation’s most liberal, with 18 judges named by Democratic presidents and only seven by Republicans.
The appeal said it was a basic principle, that “an alien seeking initial admission to the United States requests a privilege and has no constitutional rights regarding his application”.
The US Justice Department asked that Robart’s order be stayed pending appeal.
If the issue eventually gets to the Supreme Court, five of the eight justices would need to agree to block Robart’s order. The court is divided 4-4 between liberal and conservative justices while it awaits confirmation hearings on federal appeals court Judge Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee to succeed the late Antonin Scalia.
The appeal came as thousands of people from London and Paris to New York and Washington staged fresh protests against Trump, who took office on January 20 - little more than two weeks ago.
The Manhattan property mogul-turned-president, who was spending the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago vacation retreat in Florida, unloaded a barrage of angry tweets throughout the day.
He specifically targeted Robart – an appointee of Republican president George W. Bush – in an extremely rare attack on a federal judge from a sitting president.
“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” Trump tweeted early in the day.
In the evening, he posted: “The judge opens up our country to potential terrorists and others that do not have our best interests at heart. Bad people are very happy!”
The judge opens up our country to potential terrorists and others that do not have our best interests at heart. Bad people are very happy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 5, 2017
Nevertheless, government authorities began complying with the lower court judge’s ruling, reopening the borders to those with proper travel documents.
The State Department told visa holders from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen that they are again allowed to travel as long as the documents had not been “physically cancelled.”
The department earlier said up to 60,000 people had their visas revoked as a result of Trump’s order, although a Justice Department attorney put the number at closer to 100,000.
The Department of Homeland Security - which runs border agencies - also said it would cease implementing the order. The restrictions on all refugees and travellers from the seven countries went into effect a week ago, wreaking havoc at airports across America and leaving travellers trying to reach the United States in limbo.
The political backlash for Trump has been equally severe, with the order fueling numerous mass protests and internal White House infighting.
In Washington, hundreds of demonstrators marched from the White House to Capitol Hill, chanting “Donald, Donald, can’t you see – we don’t want you in DC!”
About 3,000 people rallied in New York, while an estimated 10,000 people turned out in London, and smaller gatherings took place in Paris, Berlin, Stockholm and Barcelona.
Trump was forced to defend a botched roll out of the plan – which called his government’s competence into question – and fired the government’s acting attorney general for refusing to defend the order in court.
His approval rating has sunk to the lowest level on record for any new president.
His latest rhetorical outburst is only likely to stoke the controversy.
Presidents from Thomas Jefferson to Barack Obama have criticised court rulings, but have rarely, if ever, criticised individual judges.
“I can’t think of anything like it in the past century and a half at least,” constitutional scholar and Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe said.
“It’s not exactly contempt of court, but it certainly is contemptuous,” said Tribe, who taught two sitting Supreme Court justices as well as Obama - whom he later advised.
“It conveys a lack of respect for the independent judiciary that bodes ill for the country’s future as long as Trump occupies the presidency,” Tribe said.
Democrats in Congress were swift in their condemnation of Trump’s remarks, while Republicans notably did not rush to his defence.
“This ‘so-called’ judge was nominated by a ‘so-called’ President & was confirmed by the ‘so-called’ Senate. Read the ‘so-called’ Constitution,” tweeted California Democratic lawmaker Adam Schiff.
The White House has argued that the travel bans are needed in order to prevent terror attacks on the United States.
Experts from the fields of intelligence, counterterrorism and diplomacy say the ban is at best ineffective and at worst fuels hatred of the United States in the Middle East.
But cracking down on Islamist terror has become an organising principle for Trump supporters and the White House has consistently sought to underscore the risks posed to Americans.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed 48 per cent of voters favoured “suspending immigration from ‘terror prone’ regions.”
“When a country is no longer able to say who can, and who cannot , come in & out, especially for reasons of safety &.security – big trouble!” Trump tweeted Saturday.
When a country is no longer able to say who can, and who cannot , come in & out, especially for reasons of safety &.security - big trouble!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 4, 2017
Additional reporting by Associated Press, Tribune News Service and Reuters