Donald Trump

If terrorists attack US, blame judge who suspended travel ban, furious Trump tweets

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 February, 2017, 12:31pm
UPDATED : Monday, 06 February, 2017, 12:31pm

US President Donald Trump on Sunday stepped up his invective against the nation’s courts and a federal judge who suspended his ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, telling his followers they should blame the jurist and the court system for any hypothetical terrorist attack on the US.

“Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Sunday, two days after Judge James Robart suspended the ban, and one day after a panel of judges denied the White House’s emergency appeal to reinstate it.

“If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”

The US for years has had some of the most rigorous vetting for visas and refugees in the world, and airlines have said travel has not yet recovered to levels that were normal before Trump’s order.

The president’s tweets were the latest in his running attacks on courts. Earlier Sunday, Vice-President Mike Pence said Trump had “every right to criticize the other two branches of government” and was not “questioning the legitimacy of the judge”.

Joyous travellers arrive in US as Trump’s ban is lifted

Trump added : “I have instructed Homeland Security to check people coming into our country VERY CAREFULLY. The courts are making the job very difficult!”

On Sunday morning, the president’s allies scrambled to his defence while his opponents hailed the courts as a barricade against a leader who Bernie Sanders said was moving the US “in a very authoritarian direction”.

Trump, who was spending the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, had been unusually silent. The president had filled the week with morning tweets, sent like clockwork, defending his executive order to suspend travel from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days, to halt the US refugee programme for 120 days, and to shut down the Syrian refugee programme indefinitely.

Signed nine days ago, the order caused chaos at airports around the US as officials detained and deported travellers who would have been allowed into the country only a day earlier, and protesters gathered.

Little more than a day after the order was signed, a federal judge in New York shut down a first provision , beginning the legal battle over whether Trump had violated the constitution’s limits on presidential power. On Friday Robart, a judge in Washington state, shut down the whole order temporarily.

On Saturday, Trump attacked Robart in a number of tweets, calling him a “so-called” judge. On Sunday, after the ninth US circuit court of appeals in San Francisco rejected the government’s application for an emergency stay, Pence was sent as an emissary from the White House to several talkshows. He defended Trump’s personal attack on the judge.

“The president has every right to criticise the other two branches of government,” Pence told NBC’s Meet the Press. “I think people find it very refreshing that they not only understand this president’s mind, but they understand how he feels.”

Robart was appointed by Republican George W. Bush and confirmed to the federal court by the Senate, 99-0, in 2004. Trump’s tweets against him recalled his 2016 attacks on another judge, Gonzalo Curiel, who was presiding over a fraud case against Trump that ended when the businessman agreed to pay US$25million to people who accused him of running a scam university. Trump repeatedly said that Curiel, an American-born in Indiana, was biased because “ he’s a Mexican ”.

Pence told CBS’s Face the Nation Trump’s tweet about Robart was not a chip at the judge’s authority. “I don’t think he was questioning the legitimacy of the judge,” he said.

The former governor of Indiana also maintained that Trump’s order would survive the courts. “We remain very confident that the president’s actions are on solid constitutional and legal grounds,” he said, adding falsely that a Boston judge had “upheld the constitutionality of the president’s actions”.

On Friday, before the Seattle decision, a Boston court ruled narrowly in Trump’s favour on whether to extend a block on the travel ban. But the courts have not yet decided whether Trump’s order is constitutional.

Pence said federal agencies would comply with the court orders. Some critics, however, still fear creeping authoritarianism from Trump’s White House. Chief among those warning about the balance of powers on Sunday was the independent Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, who said Congress and the courts should actively check each other and the president.

“We are a democracy, not a one-man show,” Sanders told CNN’s State of the Union. “We are not another Trump enterprise.”

He added: “We have a president I fear is moving us in a very authoritarian direction, a president who apparently has contempt for the entire judiciary.”