President Donald Trump blasted a federal judge’s temporary restraining order preventing the enforcement of key sections of his latest travel ban, calling it “an unprecedented judicial overreach.”
Speaking at a campaign rally in Nashville Wednesday evening just hours after a Hawaii judge blocked his executive order restricting travel from six Muslim-majority countries and suspending the nation’s refugee program, Trump lashed out at the courts, suggesting the ruling was a political act.
“You don’t think that this was done by a judge for political reasons, do you,” Trump asked, before drawing out a dramatic and sarcastic, “Noooo.”
“This ruling makes us look weak,” Trump said of the latest judicial rebuke, as a crowd of supporters booed the judge’s order. Trump promised to appeal the “terrible” ruling, even up to the Supreme Court. The White House has maintained that federal immigration law grants presidents the ability to close off immigration from certain countries.
A Department of Justice spokesperson echoed Trump’s stance.
“The Department of Justice strongly disagrees with the federal district court’s ruling, which is flawed both in reasoning and in scope,” they said in a statement. “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.”
Wednesday evening’s order marks the latest setback for Trump’s effort to implement “extreme vetting” of immigrants from Muslim-majority countries—which spun out of his campaign pledge to suspend Muslim immigration to the U.S.
Trump’s first executive order, signed in January, was greeted by chaos at the nation’s airports and outrage from Congress, business-leaders, and even members of his own party. That order was blocked first by a federal judge in Washington and then by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which took note of statements suggesting the ban was put in place to target people of the Muslim faith.
Trump criticized the first federal judge to block his order as a “so-called judge,” an assault that prompted his nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch, to bemoan attacks on the federal judiciary. Rather than appeal the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, as Trump himself wanted to do, the White House went back to the drawing board, working with lawyers, bureaucrats and allies on Capitol Hill to devise a scaled-back order that could withstand legal scrutiny. Thwarted again, on Wednesday, Trump seemed to embrace longstanding GOP calls to explore splitting the Ninth Circuit, one of the nation’s most liberal.
“This is a watered-down version of the first one,” Trump maintained. “This is a watered-down version.”
The Hawaii judge, Derrick Watson, criticized “illogic” in the government’s arguments and cited comments by Trump aide Stephen Miller that the second order would have the “same basic policy outcome” as the first.
“Let me tell you something,” Trump told his supporters, “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.”
Trump, who has argued that the travel ban is necessary to mitigate the threat of “radical Islamic terrorism,” argued that his order was necessary to keep the country safe—a suggestion that has drawn fierce criticism from opponents who argue data doesn’t support Trump’s claims.
“The danger is clear, the law is clear, the need for my executive order is clear,” Trump said.