About a month ago, Donald Trump’s second attempt at a Muslim ban ran into the same legal troubles as his first attempt. U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson, a federal judge in Hawaii, blocked implementation
of the administration’s policy.
The fact that Attorney General Jeff Sessions disagreed with the judge is not surprising. What’s notable, however, is how
Sessions disagreed. CNN reported
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said this week he was amazed that a judge in Hawaii could block President Donald Trump’s executive order halting immigration from several majority Muslim countries.
Sessions made the comments on “The Mark Levin Show” Wednesday evening.
The Republican attorney general, after noting his optimism about future court proceedings, specifically told
the far-right radio host, “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.”
This is a pretty remarkable thing for the nation’s chief law-enforcement official to say out loud, in public, and on purpose.
First, whether Sessions fully appreciates this or not, Hawaii is a state
. For the U.S. attorney general to downplay a judge’s authority because he’s “sitting on an island in the Pacific” is plainly bonkers.
Imagine if an attorney general in a Democratic administration were dismissive of a ruling because he or she didn’t respect the state where the courtroom was located. Then imagine how severe the political backlash would be.
Second, even looking past Sessions’ apparent animus towards Hawaii, his broader point was that he’s “amazed” that a judge could issue an order like this. In other words, the sitting attorney general is outraged that a federal judge acted within his authority to do his job.
To be sure, this is a controversial issue, and if Sessions wants to make the case that Judge Watson made the wrong call, fine. There’s ample room for a spirited debate on the merits.
But at least in this interview, Sessions didn’t make a substantive case for Trump’s Muslim ban; he questioned the judge’s geography and authority.
The sooner the attorney general apologizes for this nonsense, the better.