As President Donald Trump’s second travel ban works its way through the courts, Attorney General Jeff Sessions dismissed the Hawaii judge who ruled against it as a “judge sitting on an island in the Pacific.”
“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,” Sessions told radio host Mark Levin on Wednesday, as reported by CNN.
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Sessions’ remark, as well as his description of Hawaii, the 50th state to join the union, prompted quick pushback on social media on Thursday.
Matthew Miller, a former Department of Justice spokesperson in the Obama administration, called the comment “an extraordinary attack on a federal judge's right to do his job by a sitting AG.”
“Completely inappropriate,” Miller tweeted.
“Someone please tell Sessions that Hawaii is a state,” Chelsea Clinton replied. “An American in Hawaii is as American as one from Alabama. Or Indiana.” The latter part of her comment appeared to be a reference to Trump's attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel, an Indiana-born judge who oversaw a pair of California lawsuits against Trump University.
In his conversation with Levin, Sessions signaled that the administration is confident the ban is constitutional. He also argued that judges should not “psychoanalyze” the president while reviewing it.
“The judges don't get to psychoanalyze the president to see if the order he issues is lawful,” Sessions said.
Opponents of the president’s stalled executive order banning travelers from six majority-Muslim countries argue that it is an unconstitutional infringement on the freedom of religion, seeking to target Muslims.
The administration denies this and says it is necessary for national security, but lawsuits have cited Trump’s own words from the campaign trail to make their arguments against it. Trump’s call for an outright ban on Muslims entering the U.S., which he proposed at a rally in December 2015, are evidence that the travel ban is a front for targeting Muslims, they contend.
Sessions, however, told Levin that jurists should evaluate the legality of the ban on its face and argued that there have been some “really weird interpretations of the executive orders that he’s put out.”
“It’s either lawful or it’s not,” Sessions continued. “I think that it will be real important for America to have judges in the model of Judge Gorsuch and Scalia, people who serve under the law, under the Constitution, not above it, and they are faithful to the law. They honor it and don’t try to remake it as they'd like it to be.”
The Trump administration threw out the first ban after it was halted in the courts and later issued the revised version, which is now under review.