President Trump attacked what he described as the “disgraceful” hearing on his refugee and travel ban in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
Speaking Wednesday to the winter conference of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, a group of police chiefs and sheriffs, Trump expressed dismay that the court case is “going on for so long” and argued that even people without knowledge of the law can see that his ban is legal.
“You can be a lawyer. Or you don’t have to be a lawyer. If you were a good student in high school, or a bad student in high school, you can understand this,” he said.
On Jan. 27, Trump signed an executive order blocking citizens from seven predominantly Muslim nations from entering the U.S. The order largely affected citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It stopped people from these countries from entering the United States for 90 days. Trump’s order also barred all refugees from entering the country for 120 days and indefinitely halted the entry of all Syrian refugees.
The order inspired widespread protests, and it quickly faced legal challenges, including one from the state of Washington. On Feb. 3, a federal court judge in Washington issued a temporary restraining order halting the ban until arguments in the case could be heard. Attorneys for the Department of Justice subsequently filed an emergency motion requesting an immediate administrative stay to block the ruling that suspended Trump’s executive order. The three-judge 9th Circuit panel began considering the Justice Department’s request in a hearing on Tuesday night. After about one hour of arguments, the judges ruled that Trump’s ban should remain suspended while they continue to hear arguments.
As he began his speech on Wednesday morning, Trump pulled out a piece of paper and offered to show his audience the supposed simplicity of the case by reading “what’s in dispute.” He proceeded to recite portions of U.S. immigration law that grant the president broad authority to decide who may or may not enter the country. Trump repeated his argument that the law is so clear that “a bad high school student would understand.”
“It was done for the security of our nation, the security of our citizens, so that people come in who aren’t going to do us harm,” Trump said. “That’s why it was done, and it couldn’t have been written any more precisely — it was written beautifully.”
While the president does indeed have broad power over immigration, Washington state Solicitor General Noah Purcell argued that Trump’s executive order violated the Constitution’s ban on religious discrimination. Purcell pointed to statements Trump made during his White House bid last year, when he called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims” entering the United States. Purcell also noted that Trump gave an interview on the day he signed the order saying he wanted to prioritize Christian refugees.
Trump and other administration officials have repeatedly pushed back on the notion the executive order is a “Muslim ban.” They have even argued it should not be described as a “ban” at all, even though the president used the term before and after the recent controversy. Instead, the president’s team has taken to describing the executive order as part of Trump’s desire to have “extreme vetting” for people entering the country.
Despite the White House’s insistence the order is not a “Muslim ban,” one top Trump ally has suggested it came from Trump’s original campaign promise. In an interview late last month, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani claimed he helped draft the order after Trump asked him to find a way to legally implement a “Muslim ban.” When Yahoo News asked White House press secretary Sean Spicer about Giuliani’s comments last week, he dismissed them as the mayor’s “opinion.”
Though the 9th Circuit judges decided Trump’s order should remain suspended until they finish hearing arguments, a final ruling in the case should come soon. At Tuesday night’s hearing, presiding Judge Michelle Friedland said the court would issue its ultimate decision as quickly as possible.
In his speech, Trump pointed to his presidential powers over immigration and expressed shock the court did not immediately decide to reinstate the order. He suggested the laws are so simple and obviously in his favor that this delay shows clear political bias from the judges.
“I watched last night in amazement. And I heard things that I couldn’t believe. Things that really had nothing to do with what I just read,” Trump said. “And I don’t ever want to call a court biased, so I won’t call it biased. And we haven’t had a decision yet. But courts seem to be so political. And it would be so great for our justice system if they would be able to read a statement and do what’s right.”
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