Federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland struck legal blows against President Donald Trump’s revised executive order on travel on Wednesday, putting the administration back on defense as the president raged once again against activism in the court system.
The rulings came on the day – March 16 – that the new executive order was to go into effect. It differed from the first order in several respects; visa holders and green card recipients were exempted, Iraq was missing from the list of barred countries, and there was no special clause allowing Christian refugees to come into the country. But those revisions, aimed at satisfying the court opinions on the first order, were not enough to stave off legal challenges from several blue states.
In Hawaii, Federal District Court Judge Derrick Watson ruled that a “reasonable, objective observer” would see the new executive order as being issued “with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion, in spite of its stated, religiously neutral purpose.”
At a Nashville rally, President Trump angrily denounced the rulings as politically motivated, and he vowed to fight for his travel ban all the way to the Supreme Court.
“This ruling makes us look weak, which by the way we no longer are, believe me,” Trump said.
Frustrated by the court’s unwillingness to bend, even in the wake of specific changes the administration made to the first order, Trump said he was inclined to go back to the original travel ban and defend that one instead.
It was clear from both the Hawaii and Maryland decisions that it wouldn’t have mattered how many changes Trump made to the executive order. Both judges appeared to base much of their opinion off the assumption that these orders were just his “Muslim ban” in disguise. Judge Watson referred specifically to Trump’s December 2015 call for a shutdown to Muslim immigration when rejecting the government’s arguments in court.
That’s why we’re still optimistic about Trump’s ability to ultimately win this case. If you take the court rulings thus far to their logical conclusion, federal judges are essentially saying that because candidate Trump once called for a Muslim immigration ban, he no longer has the authority to limit entry into the U.S. from any Muslim-majority country. That’s absurd. That’s a political argument, not a legal one. It defies logic, it defies U.S. law, and it defies the will of the voters who spoke loudly and clearly in November.