Election 2016

Trump Escalates Attack on Federal Judges Who Dare Delay and Question His Travel Ban from Muslim Countries

The president tells police and sheriffs that judges are not on their side.

Photo Credit: www.whitehouse.gov

Like an old-time political boss who believes his word is the law, President Trump escalated his attacks on federal judges Wednesday for not rubber-stamping his ban on travel from seven Muslim countries. At a convention of police chiefs and sheriffs, the president declared that the judiciary is “taking away our weapons one by one.”

Speaking to the Major Cities Chiefs Association and Major County Sheriff’s Association, Trump said he listened to the live audio stream of late Tuesday’s Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals hearing on a lower court ruling that temporarily suspended his entire executive order banning travelers from seven countries.

“It’s really incredible to me that we have a court case that’s going on so long,” Trump began, according to the White House press pool transcript.

In fact, the California-based Ninth Circuit proceeding began only last weekend when Trump’s lawyers filed an emergency motion seeking to restore the travel ban, prompting yesterday’s accelerated phone hearing before the panel. A ruling from the panel is expected anytime.

Trump’s comment shows that he has little familiarity with judicial procedures. Nonetheless, he continued by bullying and mocking judges who dared to question the constitutionality of his sloppy and hastily issued decree.

“They’re interpreting differently than probably 100 percent of the people in this room,” he said, referring to the many district courts that found his order violated constitutional due process—meaning the right to confront one’s accusers in court—of foreigners who are legal permanent U.S. residents, whom the ban included.

Trump said he listened to the audio stream of Tuesday’s hearing and then told the police chiefs and sheriffs that if the judges want to help him, they should “do what they should be doing.” Trump said, “Courts seem to be so political…it would be so great for the justice system if they’d be able to read a statement and do what’s right.”

Trump then told the room that any delays in reviving his travel ban would allow dangerous people to sneak into the country. However, many experts on international terrorism have pointed out that the perpetrators of attacks on U.S. soil have not come from the nations targeted by the executive order. Trump then implied he expects local law enforcement to assist federal immigration police with all of his dictates, which could include mass roundups, arrests, detention, and deportations.

“They taking away our weapons one by one,” Trump said. “This is a weapon that you need and they’re trying to take it away from you.”

Trump's attack on the judiciary is troubling on many levels. His remarks to the police chiefs and sheriffs show little understanding of how the federal courts work and the role of the judiciary as a co-equal branch and check on executive power. Trump apparently believes his orders are inviolate, to be obediently enforced by police and courts alike. That is how much of America was run before the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, especially in southern states.

By attacking the judiciary, Trump is setting an ominous precedent and tone. The Muslim travel ban, as disruptive as it has been, pales in contrast to the specter of Trump ordering federal immigration officials to start cracking down on the 11 million migrants in the U.S., living and working without visas.

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016).

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