Constitutional Crisis: Trump Attacks Judges Online After Courts Block Travel Ban

President Donald Trump tweeted attacks on two judges after a federal court of appeals judge rejected the Department of Justices’ (DOJ) bid to restore Trump’s immigration executive order, and a district court judge blocked the order after the DOJ was sued.

The order is commonly referred to as a “travel ban.” It imposed a 90-day on nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries entering the U.S., a 120-day ban on admitting refugees from those countries, and also an indefinite stop on admitting refugees from Syria.

Early Sunday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco denied the DOJ’s request for an emergency stay, which means the travel ban is suspended until the motion is given a full hearing at a later date.

Robart’s ruling allowed refugees and travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, who were previously barred by ban, to continue to be able to enter the country.

The court also asked for a response from the all the parties. Namely, the attorney generals in Washington state and Minnesota, who filed the lawsuit against the Trump administration, and the Trump administration.

The appeals court decision comes after the DOJ filed a notice on Saturday evening saying it would appeal the temporary nationwide restraining order issued by a federal judge in Seattle on Friday, which immediately halted Trump’s immigration executive order.

A day before the court of appeals judge’s ruling, Trump vented on Twitter at U.S. District Court Judge James Robart of Seattle, Washington, who put a temporary block on the travel ban on Friday.

Following Judge Robart’s ruling, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) suspended “any and all actions implementing the affected sections” of Trump’s order, according to reports.

Judge Robart, an appointee of President George W. Bush, ruled in favor of the lawsuit filed by the attorney generals of both Washington and Minnesota, which sought to overturn Trump’s immigration executive order.

In response, Trump, 70, punched out a series of tweets on Saturday (February 4). Some of these insulted Judge Robart.

Trump began, “We must keep ‘evil’ out of our country!”

The president went on to state that a country that can’t control who comes in and out of the country for “safety and security” reasons is in “big trouble!”

Then, the first explicit zinger aimed at Judge Robart. “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” Trump vowed.

The combative leader then Twitter screamed in caps, ” MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” before asking a rhetorical question.

“What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.?” Trump tweeted hours after his initial tweets on Robart.

In another tweet, the president employed fear as his reasoning for the ban. He also continued to undermine Robart’s ruling and abilities.

“Because the ban was lifted by a judge, many very bad and dangerous people may be pouring into our country. A terrible decision,” he wrote.

And he wasn’t done. About an hour later, Trump asked, “Why aren’t the lawyers looking at and using the Federal Court decision in Boston, which is at conflict with ridiculous lift ban decision?”

After teasing his then-upcoming interview with Fox’s Bill O’Reilly on The O’Reilly Factor, the commander-in-chief returned to his favorite themes: fear and blaming Judge Robart for supposedly putting America at risk from terrorism.

“The judge opens up our country to potential terrorists and others that do not have our best interests at heart. Bad people are very happy!” he tweeted.

On Sunday, presumably after hearing about the court of appeals judge rejecting the DOJ’s request for the travel ban to be reinstated, Trump went after the court of appeals judge and said if America was attacked it would be the judge’s fault.

“Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!” Trump tweeted.

He added, “I have instructed Homeland Security to check people coming into our country VERY CAREFULLY. The courts are making the job very difficult!”

Meanwhile, it’s been reported Trump’s Twitter attacks on Judge Robart could backfire on the president’s plans.

Senate minority leader Senator Chuck Schumer of New York has warned that Trump’s attack on Judge Robart could galvanize Democrats to rally against Trump’s nomination of federal appeals court Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

Schumer also noted that Robart was nominated by former President George W. Bush and was unanimously confirmed by the Senate.

“The President’s attack on Judge James Robart,” Schumer said on Saturday, “a Bush appointee who passed with 99 votes, shows a disdain for an independent judiciary that doesn’t always bend to his wishes and a continued lack of respect for the Constitution, making it more important that the Supreme Court serve as an independent check on the administration.”

Schumer added, “With each action testing the Constitution, and each personal attack on a judge, President Trump raises the bar even higher for Judge Gorsuch’s nomination to serve on the Supreme Court.”

He went on to say, “His [Gorsuch’s] ability to be an independent check will be front and center throughout the confirmation process.”

Other political and legal voices have also weighed in.

John Banzhaf, a professor at George Washington University Law School, told Politico he believes Robart’s ruling is wrong on multiple grounds. But, he also said Trump’s tweets on the judge were “completely outrageous.”

“There’s no basis whatsoever for calling him a so-called judge,” Banzhaf withered.

He added, “Even though I’m basically sympathetic of the ultimate position that the order is inappropriate and will be ultimately overturned, I think it’s unwise, unwarranted and unfair.”

University of Pittsburgh law professor Arthur Hellman also shared his opinion that the integrity of judges and courts “depends on the public’s perception of their legitimacy.”

He noted that judges may take a dim view of Trump’s words, which could affect how DOJ lawyers are treated in their ongoing fight to restore the travel ban.

Hellman mused, adding, “I could imagine one of the judges on the panel asking the DOJ lawyers, ‘Do you think it’s appropriate for the president to be referring to an Article III judge as a so-called judge?'”

Matthew Miller, a former spokesman for the DOJ during former president Barack Obama’s era, echoed that opinion.

“With every tweet, he is just making it harder and harder for DOJ attorneys to win in court. So keep it up, I guess,” Miller wrote on Twitter.

Charles Geyh, a professor at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law, also talked delegtimization.

“Judge Robart has life tenure so I am not too concerned about the President’s comments intimidating the judge in any meaningful way,” Geyh said.

Elaborating, he went on to say, “But I do worry that gaining tactical advantage by attacking the legitimacy or integrity of others with whom the President disagrees erodes public confidence in the constitutional form of government the president has taken an oath to uphold.”

In addition, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has warned President Trump about ad hominem attacks on judge.

On Sunday, McConnell shared on CNN’s State of the Union that it is “best to avoid criticizing judges individually,” The Hill reports.

McConnell stated that while he agreed with vetting to prevent terrorists from entering the country, “there’s a fine line here between proper vetting and interfering with the kind of travel” or putting visitors [he didn’t make it clear whether he included refugees in that concern or just nationals] to the U.S. through a religious test.

“We need to avoid doing that kind of thing,” he added, also noting that the U.S. needs “to be careful” about not shutting out allies who work with the U.S. military in Iraq and elsewhere.

Pressed by CNN’s Jake Tapper as to whether he would support legislation upholding Trump’s immigration executive order, McConnell said that question was best left to the courts.

“I don’t know that that’s necessary,” McConnell admitted, adding, “The courts are going to decide whether the executive order the president issued is valid or not and we all follow a court order.”

Criticism of Trump’s rip of Judge Robart also came from Senator Ben Sasse, the Republican representative for Nebraska. On Sunday, he slammed Trump’s attack on the judge.

“We don’t have any so-called judges, just real judges,” Sasse told ABC’s This Week.

Sasse continued, “I’ll be honest, I don’t understand language like that. We don’t have so–called judges. We don’t have so-called senators. We don’t have so-called presidents.”

Also on Sunday, George Little, a former Defense Department and CIA spokesman and a member of the board of advisers on the University of Chicago’s Project on Security and Terrorism, condemned Trump’s attack on Judge Robart.

The Hill reports that Little called that reaction a “shocking and dangerous statement by the president of the United States.”

Marci Hamilton, a constitutional lawyer and scholar of religion at the University of Pennsylvania, mirrored that strong view.

“This is an epic confrontation between the presidency and the constitution,” Hamilton said, according to The Guardian. “The moment Donald Trump suggests anyone disobey the federal court order then we will be in a constitutional crisis.”

Even though Trump seems unable to respect the concept of checks and balances and the necessity of an independent judiciary, his Vice-President, Mike Pence does not share that view.

Speaking to ABC’s This Week in a pre-taped sit-down that aired Sunday (before news of the appeals court’s judgement), Pence said a federal judge in Seattle had the authority to suspend Trump’s travel ban, but also said the administration would try to get the order reinstated.

“He certainly does, and that’s why the administration is complying with that order as we speak,” Pence told ABC.

“And we’ll go through the process in the courts to get a stay of that order,” he explains, “so that again, we can implement this action that is entirely focused on the safety and security of the American people.”

As of Friday, both the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department have complied with the restraining order issued by Judge Robart, which was not lifted by the court of appeals judge. The next move is a full hearing of the case in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, as President Trump and the rest the world watches intently.

[Featured Image By Zach Gibson/Getty Images]