On Wednesday evening, as President Trump was speaking at a rally in Nashville, Tennessee, he touched on the newest announcement regarding his latest executive order. It calls for temporary travel restrictions from six Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East, as well as a halt of the United States’ refugee program.
A federal judge in Hawaii ruled against the executive order earlier in the day, and subsequently placed a nationwide block on it.
When the first order was overturned by a judge in Seattle, Trump took to Twitter to release his frustrations. He blasted the Washington judge, and the subsequent judges who halted the order’s implementation, on social media in the beginning of February. The Trump administration went back to the drawing board to write out a new plan that they hoped would survive the courts’ dissection and scrutiny.
Trump said the ruling, made by U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson, was “unprecedented judicial overreach” and “makes us look weak” in our fight against terrorism.
Watson was actually the second of three judges to hear the case on Wednesday. One other judge in Maryland, U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang, specifically blocked the 90-day travel ban from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The third judge is the same one who famously overturned Trump’s original executive order. That order called for a temporary ban from seven countries just after the president took office.
Judge Watson concluded that the new order failed to pass legal muster in its current state. He also says the state of Hawaii had founded “a strong likelihood of success” on the claim of religious discrimination.
During the Nashville rally, President Trump had a few choice words for Judge Watson and his ruling. He referred to it as “the bad, the sad news” as the crowd began booing the ruling and showing Trump support. “The order he blocked was a watered-down version of the first one,” said Trump. He continued, “This is, in the opinion of many, an unprecedented judicial overreach.” Trump then pledged to take the issue all the way to the Supreme Court if he found it necessary to do so.
Thank you Nashville, Tennessee! pic.twitter.com/6snvQ0DzXN
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 16, 2017
In his ruling, Judge Watson explained his reasoning behind his decision:
“The illogic of the Government’s contentions is palpable. The notion that one can demonstrate animus toward any group of people only by targeting all of them at once is fundamentally flawed. Equally flawed in the notion that the Executive Order cannot be found to have targeted Islam because it applies to all individuals in the six referenced countries. It is undisputed, using the primary source on which the Government itself relies, that these six countries have overwhelmingly Muslim populations that range from 90.7% to 99.8%. It would therefore be no paradigmatic leap to conclude that targeting these countries likewise targets Islam. Certainly, it would be inappropriate to conclude, as the Government does, that it does not. When considered alongside the constitutional injuries and harms… and the questionable evidence supporting the Government’s national security motivations, the balance of equities and public interests justify granting the Plaintiffs’ request [to block the order].”
The Department of Justice has announced that it will continue to fight on the side of President Trump to ensure the order is reinstated. They also said the process in which the government aims to intensify the nation’s security will continue on.
“The Department of Justice strongly disagrees with the federal district court’s ruling, which is flawed both in reasoning and in scope. The President’s Executive Order falls squarely within his lawful authority in seeking to protect our Nation’s security, and the Department will continue to defend this Executive Order in the courts,” the DOJ said in an official statement following the ruling.
Some members of President Trump’s team of advisers have recently made public statements regarding the executive orders, and the courts used them during the hearings.
Both Watson and Chuang used specific statements made by both President Trump and one of his advisers, who also wrote the original order from January, Stephen Miller. The judges used interviews both men had participated in on cable news networks.
Last year, Trump sat down for an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, in which the then-candidate said “I think Islam hates us.” Cooper then asked him to clarify his statement, further digging for information. He asked if Trump meant Islam as a whole or just “radical Islam,” which has been a huge problem for the United States over quite some time. Trump replied, “It’s very hard to separate. Because you don’t know who’s who.”
Watson cited this interview as “religious animus” on the part of Trump. He also used another statement from the interview against the president, in which he said, “We can’t allow people coming into this country who have this hatred of the United States.”
Miller was interviewed by Fox News during the time in which the second order was being constructed. During the interview, he was asked what the differences would be between the first order and the new one. Miller responded, “Fundamentally, you’re still going to have the same basic policy outcome for the country.” He went on to say the second order was “responsive to the judicial ruling” of the first one, and they would have “mostly minor technical differences.”
“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 [Trump] himself, betray the Executive Order’s stated secular purpose,” Watson wrote, and later Chuang reiterated in his own ruling.
The ACLU, another well-known opponent of Trump, has said that it is prepared for a continued battle over the executive order. “We are pleased, but not surprised, by this latest development, and will continue working to ensure the Muslim ban never takes effect,” said ACLU lawyer Omar Jadwat, who represented the plaintiff in the Maryland hearing.
President Trump and his administration are now working on next steps in order to push through the executive order. The DOJ has not responded to any inquiries on what’s next just yet, but we do know that this could be the beginning of a long legal battle within our own government.