Donald Trump is fighting to save one of his signature policies – closing U.S. borders to immigrants and travellers from seven majority-Muslim countries – in a court battle that represents the most concrete challenge so far to the President’s agenda.
A federal judge on Friday blocked Mr. Trump’s week-old executive order and an appeals court Sunday turned down the government’s request to immediately reinstate it nationwide. The administration’s lawyers will pick up the fight on Monday, setting the stage for a protracted legal battle that could reach all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The fight pits Mr. Trump against state governments – two jurisdictions, Washington and Minnesota, brought the court case – as well as some of the country’s most prominent corporations, including Amazon.com, which have publicly slammed the executive order and backed the court challenge.
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Mr. Trump, who was working out of his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, even took on the judge in Friday’s decision himself, deriding jurist James Robart as a “so-called judge” and warning that he was endangering America.
“The judge opens up our country to potential terrorists and others that do not have our best interests at heart,” the President tweeted. “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”
The attacks on the judiciary are extraordinary by the standards of the presidency: Mr. Trump’s predecessors, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, both suffered court defeats on signature policies such as Guantanamo Bay detentions and Medicaid expansions, but neither singled out the judges involved.
Vice-President Mike Pence said the government was going to keep fighting.
“We’re very confident that we’re going to prevail. We’ll accomplish the stay and we’ll win the case on the merits,” he said on CNN Sunday. “The American people know that the threats that we face are real.”
He also pushed back against criticism that his boss crossed a line by attacking judges.
“The President of the United States has every right to criticize the other two branches of government, and we have a long tradition of that in this country,” Mr. Pence said. “I think people find it very refreshing that they not only understand this President’s mind but they understand how he feels about things,” he added.
Mr. Trump also drew fire for an interview, aired Sunday on Fox shortly before the Super Bowl, in which he reaffirmed his respect for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I do respect him,” Mr. Trump told host Bill O’Reilly. “It’s a lot better to get along with Russia than not. And if Russia helps us in the fight against [the Islamic State] … that’s a good thing.”
“He’s a killer, though,” Mr. O’Reilly said. “Putin’s a killer.”
“A lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers,” Mr. Trump responded. “What – you think our country is so innocent?”
Mr. Trump also repeated his assertion that millions of illegal immigrants voted in November’s presidential election – for which he has never offered any proof – and pledged to set up a commission headed by Mr. Pence to investigate. [/restrict]