One of the most disturbing aspects of Trump’s presidency has been to watch congressional Republicans normalize the attacks on our democracy by failing to hold the Liar-in-Chief accountable. We can now add the conservative justices on the Supreme Court to that group because, in ruling the president’s travel ban constitutional, they just affirmed his right to lie. Here is some of what Chief Justice Roberts wrote in the 5-4 majority opinion.
Chief Justice Roberts acknowledged that Mr. Trump’s had made many statements concerning his desire to impose a “Muslim ban.”
“The issue before us is not whether to denounce the statements,” the chief justice wrote. “It is instead the significance of those statements in reviewing a presidential directive, neutral on its face, addressing a matter within the core of executive responsibility.”
“In doing so,” he wrote. “we must consider not only the statements of a particular President, but also the authority of the Presidency itself.”
He concluded that the proclamation, viewed in isolation, was neutral and justified by national security concerns. “The proclamation is expressly premised on legitimate purposes: preventing entry of nationals who cannot be adequately vetted and inducing other nations to improve their practices,” he wrote.
Legal scholars tend to agree that it is within a president’s executive authority to limit travel to the United States for persons who are deemed to be a national security threat. But when it comes to people from the six countries named in Trump’s travel ban, there is no demonstrable evidence that they pose such a threat. In other words, the national security argument used by this administration to defend the ban is a lie. To demonstrate that point, Philip Bump went back 20 years to determine whether this particular ban would have saved any of the lives that were lost to terrorist attacks over that time period.
Of the 24 attacks listed above, only two might have been prevented had the perpetrator been subject to the full travel ban Trump has proposed. One would have had to have been rejected at the age of 2. No deaths would have been prevented.
In the process of affirming the lie Trump told about his travel ban, Roberts completely dismissed all of the things the president said about his intentions over the course of his campaign and time in office. That is because, when taken at face value, they violate the religious liberty clause of the constitution. Justice Sotomayor made that very clear in her scathing dissent.
The United States of America is a Nation built upon the promise of religious liberty. Our Founders honored that core promise by embedding the principle of religious neutrality in the First Amendment. The Court’s decision today fails to safeguard that fundamental principle. It leaves undisturbed a policy first advertised openly and unequivocally as a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” because the policy now masquerades behind a façade of national-security concerns. But this repackaging does little to cleanse Presidential Proclamation No. 9645 of the appearance of discrimination that the President’s words have created. Based on the evidence in the record, a reasonable observer would conclude that the Proclamation was motivated by anti-Muslim animus.
It is bad enough that the conservatives on the Supreme Court—many of whom want to claim the mantle of being defenders of “religious liberty” when it comes to Christians—completely dismissed the fact that this travel ban is motivated by anti-Muslim animus. But I find it equally disturbing that they just affirmed the president’s right to lie about national security concerns.