Trump vows to fight ‘terrible’ travel ban ruling from Hawaii judge

Hunter Walker
·White House Correspondent

In a speech in Nashville, Tenn., on Wednesday, President Trump railed against a nationwide temporary restraining order that has put a halt to the revised version of his travel ban. Trump described the decision by a federal judge in Honolulu a few hours earlier as a “flawed ruling” and as “unprecedented judicial overreach” that he suggested was politically motivated. He also declared that he is willing to take the legal battle all the way to the Supreme Court and predicted that he will ultimately emerge victorious.

“We’re going to fight this terrible ruling. We’re going to take our case as far as it needs to go, including all the way up to the Supreme Court,” he said. “We’re going to win. We’re going to keep our citizens safe, and regardless, we’re going to keep our citizens safe. Believe me.”

Trump began discussing the ruling by announcing that he had to deliver some “bad news” and assuring his audience that he would “turn it into good.” He noted that the decision by Hawaii District Judge Derrick Watson came from “part of the much overturned Ninth Circuit court.” Trump also pointed out that the ban in question was a “watered-down” version of his initial executive order of Jan. 27, which was also blocked by a federal judge.

“A judge has just blocked our executive order on travel and refugees coming into our country from certain countries. The order he blocked was a watered-down version of the first order that was also blocked by another judge — and should have never been blocked to start with,” Trump said.

The new version of the travel ban was issued on March 6. It was designed to meet the objections to the first executive order, which blocked travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — from entering the United States. It also barred all refugees from entering the country for 120 days and indefinitely halted the entry of all Syrian refugees.

Trump and government attorneys have argued that the orders are necessary security measures, focusing on countries that they consider pose elevated risks of terrorism to the United States. The January order sparked widespread protests and legal challenges, including one from the states of Washington and Minnesota that resulted in a temporary restraining order by a federal judge in Seattle. After that ruling was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Trump administration dropped the case and drew up a more limited order.

Among other changes, Trump’s revised ban removed Iraq from the list of countries singled out and exempted permanent residents and current visa holders from the restrictions. Speaking in Nashville, Trump described the second version of the executive order as “tailored to the dictates” of the Ninth Circuit.

Trump also said that he wished he had never revised the order.

“Remember this, I wasn’t thrilled, but the lawyers all said, ‘Oh, let’s tailor it.’ This is a watered-down version of the first one,” Trump explained. “This is a watered-down version, and let me tell you something, I think we ought to go back to the first one and go all the way, which is what I wanted to do in the first place.”

When the first executive order was suspended, attorneys arguing against it suggested the ban violated the Constitution’s ban on religious discrimination and pointed to statements Trump made during his campaign last year calling for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims” entering the United States. In the lawsuit against the revised ban, Hawaii’s attorney general similarly pointed to previous statements by Trump and his aides. Government lawyers have argued that those comments should have no bearing on the legality of the ban.

In his decision Wednesday, Judge Watson cited Trump’s call for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims,” and statements made by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a top Trump ally, who claimed that the president had approached him to find a legal way to implement a “Muslim ban.”

“These plainly worded statements, made in the months leading up to and contemporaneous with the signing of the Executive Order, and, in many cases, made by the Executive himself, 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,” Watson wrote in his ruling.

Trump and others in his administration defended the earlier order by arguing that U.S. immigration law grants the president broad authority to decide who may or may not enter the country. As he has in the past, Trump read a section of a 1952 law that states that in any instance where the president thinks the entry “of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”

Trump argued that the law is so simple it would be “easy” to understand, “even if you’re a bad student.”

“In other words, if he thinks it’s dangerous out there, he or she, whoever is president, can say, ‘I’m sorry, folks. Not now please, we’ve got enough problems.’ We’re talking about the safety of our nation, the safety and security of our people,” he said.

President Trump addresses a rally in Nashville, Tenn., on March 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Trump addresses a rally in Nashville, Tenn., on March 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Trump went on to suggest that the judge in Hawaii halted the order for political reasons rather than on legal grounds.

“Now, I know you people aren’t skeptical people, because nobody would be that way in Tennessee, not Tennessee,” Trump said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “You don’t think this was done by a judge for political reasons, do you?”

Trump has previously criticized politicians for refraining from using the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” due to concerns about political correctness. Although government attorneys have tried to make the case that the travel ban does not focus on religion, Trump in his Tennessee speech said stopping “Islamic terrorists” was a major focus of the order.

“The best way to keep foreign terrorists, or as some people would say, in certain instances, radical Islamic terrorists from attacking our country, is to stop them from entering our country in the first place,” he said.

Apart from the reaction to the ruling in Hawaii, Trump’s speech in Tennessee resembled the freewheeling rallies that defined his presidential campaign last year. It featured all the signature elements of his stump speeches, including promises to cut taxes, build a wall on the United States’ Southern border, and to “repeal and replace horrible, disastrous Obamacare.” There was even a shot against his election opponent, Hillary Clinton, and the chant of “Lock Her Up!” that was a staple of his campaign for the White House.

The Tennessee rally, hosted by Trump’s campaign organization rather than by the White House, is the second such event he has held since taking office. Speaking to reporters on Air Force One after he left Nashville, Trump said he would like to “do these rallies every two weeks.” A source in the campaign told Yahoo News that the rallies will continue regularly for several reasons: because they enable the president to deliver his messages directly to the people, they are a way of collecting data and contact information from potential supporters, and because billing them as campaign speeches is more “honest” than making the taxpayers pay for them. Trump concluded the event in Nashville with his campaign slogan.

“Together we will make America strong again. We will make America wealthy again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again! And we will make America great again!”