A Government of Laws, Not Madmen (Updated)

The millions of Americans who voted for the 45th President couldn’t recognize his flaws, but at least the federal courts have:

A federal judge in Seattle on Friday temporarily blocked President Trump’s week-old immigration order from being enforced nationwide, reopening America’s door to visa holders from seven predominantly Muslim countries and dealing the administration a humbling defeat.

The White House vowed late Friday to fight what it called an “outrageous” ruling, saying it would seek an emergency halt to the judge’s order as soon as possible and restore the president’s “lawful and appropriate order.”

“The president’s order is intended to protect the homeland and he has the constitutional authority and responsibility to protect the American people,” the White House said. A revised statement released later omitted the word “outrageous.”

Courts around the country have halted aspects of Mr. Trump’s temporary ban on travel from the seven countries, but the Seattle ruling was the most far-reaching to date…

The federal government was “arguing that we have to protect the U.S. from individuals from these countries, and there’s no support for that,” said the judge, James Robart of Federal District Court for the Western District of Washington, an appointee of President George W. Bush, in a decision delivered from the bench.

The judge’s ruling was temporary, putting Mr. Trump’s policy on hold at least until the government and opponents of the order had a chance to make full arguments, or until the administration won a stay.

Trump’s Muslim ban, and the various federal court rulings against it, should refocus public attention on the importance of the federal judiciary. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch isn’t the only threat Trump poses to the judiciary; imagine what would happen to this country, and to our democracy, if the Senate filled vacant district and appellate court seats with far-right Trump loyalists.

The Washington Post observes:

In the past several days, federal judges in New York, California, Massachusetts and Virginia have issued rulings temporarily blocking aspects of the Trump order — though the orders all seemed to be limited to people who had made their way to U.S. airports, or, in Virginia’s case, to certain people.

The New York and Massachusetts rulings both blocked the government from detaining or deporting anyone from the seven affected countries who could legally enter the U.S., and the Massachusetts ruling added the critical phrase “absent the executive order.” In California, a judge declared that U.S. officials were also prevented from “blocking” people from entering who had a valid visa.

The federal judge in New York–Ann Donnelly–was appointed by Barack Obama. The federal judge in California–Andre Birotte–was also appointed by Obama. The two federal judges in Massachusetts–Allison Burroughs and Judith Dein–were appointed by, respectively, Obama and Bill Clinton. The federal judge in Virginia–Leonie Brinkema–was appointed by Clinton.

Does anyone think that the hacks Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plan to shove onto the federal courts will have anything close to the the wisdom of these Clinton, Bush and Obama appointees?

UPDATE: The State Department and the Department of Homeland Security agree to comply with Judge Robart’s order.

SECOND UPDATE: The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejects Trump’s effort to have the ban reinstated.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.