MATT EPSTEIN ’19
Throughout his time on the campaign trail, now President Donald Trump made a bevy of promises to the American people, perhaps none more controversial than his proposed “Muslim Ban”. Although he eventually toned back his rhetoric to talk of “extreme vetting” and temporary bans from select countries, many assumed that Trump “didn’t mean it,” and simply said what some wanted to hear in order to garner votes. As we approach the end of the first month of Trump’s Presidency, that turns out to have been far from the case.
Less than two weeks ago, President Trump enacted an executive order, banning travel from citizens of seven majority Muslim countries for three months. For those from Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, Libya, and Sudan, travel to the United States was halted, regardless of whether they had a valid visa. Many who had applied for and received visas, a process that can take years, were sent back to their home countries, and told that they couldn’t travel to the United States. In some cases, Green Card holders, legal residents of the United States, were detained at airports when trying to return to the States. Unsurprisingly, the travel ban was met with outrage by many, with some calling it veiled racism, and others calling it unconstitutional. While many protested at airports, the travel ban went into effect, and the United States, a country that has historically opened its arms to those in need closed, its doors.
Just days after President Trump announced his executive order, the Washington State Attorney General filed a legal complaint, asking for a court to rule parts of the order unconstitutional. Days later, U.S. District Court judge James Robart temporarily halted the executive order while he considered the lawsuit. While the Justice Department (read: the Trump administration) appealed the temporary halt, an appeals court upheld the ruling. As we currently stand, the travel ban is suspended, and unsurprisingly, President Trump has demonstrated his displeasure with the ruling. Shortly after Judge Robart filed for the suspension of the executive order, President Trump tweeted “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” While President Trump has said many controversial things over the past two years, his latest tweet is perhaps the most chilling. In the past, Presidents have certainly disagreed with court rulings, but calling into question the legitimacy of the judge, one who is well respected and has served for many years, threatens to undermine the American Judiciary.
President Trump may seemingly not be aware, but our government is one of checks and balances. The Executive and Judicial branches are separate, with the separation of powers being intentional. Trump may learn this the hard way if the case goes all the way to the Supreme Court. In the days following his initial tweet, Trump doubled down, again on Twitter, saying, “just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”
While his attempt to delegitimize the judge was denounced by many, it was met with criticism from an unlikely source: Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, who called the President’s comments “demoralizing and disheartening.” Although Trump’s comments are certainly frightening, Gorsuch’s criticism of the President shows that although he is conservative, he may not simply be a “yes man”, siding in favor with the views of Trump on Supreme Court decisions.
President Trump’s attempts to delegitimize a judge because a ruling didn’t fall in his favor is not an isolated incident, but yet another instance of Trump attempting to nudge American democracy ever so closer to an authoritarian state. In fact, this is not the first time that the President has called into question a judge, citing while on the campaign trail that a judge couldn’t be objective because of his Mexican heritage.
Throughout the first few weeks of Trump’s Presidency, his administration has cited inaccurate facts to the American public, while labeling the media as the “opposition party.” As Trump’s Presidency continues, Americans must be cautious, and not blindly take his administration at their word. If Trump is successful in silencing the media and creating distrust of the Judiciary, the United States will be well on its way down a dark path that has historically always ended with disaster.