Sessions doesn’t think a judge on ‘an island in the Pacific’ should stop Trump
First, candidate Donald Trump said a judge of Mexican descent couldn’t give him a fair hearing. Now, President Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is suggesting that a judge from Hawaii — which he dismissively labels “an island in the Pacific” — should not be able to strike down Trump’s travel ban.
Here’s what Sessions told radio host Mark Levin on Wednesday, in audio uncovered by CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski:
“We are confident that the president will prevail on appeal and particularly in the Supreme Court, if not the 9th Circuit. So this is a huge matter. I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power.”
There are a few problems with this.
The first is that Hawaii is a state and has been since 1959. Dismissing it as “an island in the Pacific” is the kind of thing that will earn you the pleasure of apologizing to an entire state.
The second is that the judge isn’t a Hawaiian judge, per se. Derrick Watson is a federal judge who happens to serve on a district court in Hawaii. And he has some of that allimportant mainland experience and perspective, having worked as a lawyer in San Francisco.
And the third is that Hawaii does have major ports of entry, with international travelers arriving regularly. ( We hear the beaches are nice or something?) Hence, it is affected by Trump's travel ban.
This is hardly the first time the Trump administration has sought to undercut or question the powers of judges who run afoul of Trump.
There was Gonzalo Curiel, the Mexican American federal judge born in Indiana whom the president criticized for the handling of the Trump University case.
And then there was Trump’s lengthy campaign to question whether the courts had the authority of overrule his travel ban. Even new Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch has called Trump’s attacks on judges “demoralizing” and “disheartening.”
Trump seemed to back away from those attacks for a while. But now Sessions has picked them up again.
Hawaii’s two Democratic senators responded sharply to Sessions’s remark Thursday.
“Mr. Attorney General: You voted for that judge. And that island is called Oahu. It’s my home. Have some respect,” Sen. Brian Schatz said in a Twitter message.
And Sen. Mazie Hirono issued this tweet:
“Hey Jeff Sessions, this #IslandinthePacific has been the 50th state for going on 58 years. And we won’t succumb to your dog whistle politics.”
A spokesman for the Justice Department, in a response, doubled down on the attorney general’s remarks, including on the “island in the Pacific” part:
“Hawaii is, in fact, an island in the Pacific — a beautiful one where the Attorney General’s granddaughter was born. The point, however, is that there is a problem when flawed opinion by a single judge can block the President’s lawful exercise of authority to keep the entire country safe,” Ian D. Prior said in a statement.
Watson issued an order March 15 that halted parts of Trump’s second travel ban. That order, which applies nationwide, is being challenged by the Justice Department before the U. S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit based in San Francisco.