Trump and the Judges

Late last week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck a major blow to President Trump’s immigration agenda when they upheld a suspension of his controversial travel ban. Since the ruling, President Trump made his views widely known, calling the decision “disgraceful” and a “COURT BREAKDOWN”:

This story will continue to play out in the months ahead as the Trump administration weighs their options for reinstating the travel ban.

This case is likely the first of many disputes between the administration and the expansive American judiciary, which is not unprecedented. (President Obama faced a mix of favorable and unfavorable court rulings during his tenure, and he expressed his satisfaction or dissatisfaction often.)

What is unusual is President Trump’s vocal reaction to these decisions. So-called judges, he argues, are stepping outside their authority in a politically-motivated effort to thwart him. President Trump seems to view judges much like his political opponents. Just as he did with politicians “Little Marco,” “Crooked Hillary,” or “Lyin’ Ted”, President Trump is willing to do battle with judges outside of court.

The power of the judicial branch mostly depends on the executive branch’s compliance with its orders. The judiciary has no physical enforcement mechanism. A president’s opinion of the judiciary is significant because it signals their willingness to comply with this system of checks and balances.

Mr. Trump was intimately familiar with and seemed fond of the court system before he became president. He sued and was sued thousands of times. He judged other celebrities on a reality show. He loves judging stuff on Twitter.

If we stipulate that the President’s tweets reflect his mood and thinking, recent tweets show that his patience for judicial review may be wearing thin. Neil Gorsuch, his Supreme Court nominee, called his comments in this tweet “demoralizing” and “disheartening”:

However, the operative words here may not be “so-called judge.” Those words got a lot of attention. But the phrase “will be overturned!” may be equally significant to understanding the President’s thinking.

Including this phrase, perhaps unintentionally considering the administration’s new position, shows a basic level of respect for the judicial process.

President Trump, who sincerely believes this travel ban is necessary to protect Americans and that a silent majority of Americans support it, has not ordered law enforcement to disobey the court ruling. Judicial review lives to see another day.

Still, fans of the judiciary may want the President to call his sister.

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5 Responses to Trump and the Judges

  1. dneu1 says:

    I think one of the most interesting parts of Trump’s immigration ban has been it’s treatment as far as the intent of the ban. While the executive order itself doesn’t call out any specific religion there is well documented evidence of Trump supporting and talking about a Muslim ban during his campaign. This executive order seems to be our president’s way of enacting a Muslim ban, which if religious in nature would be a clear violation of the fourteenth amendment’s equal protection clause, and quite possibly a violation of the first amendment’s establishment clause. But because no specific religious group is mentioned in the ban, this becomes a question of intent. Judges in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia would say that the intent is irrelevant, only the content of the order matters. However based on the statements of judges who have ruled against the ban so far, and on previous similar supreme court cases ( ) it looks like will play an important role of determining the constitutionality of Trump’s order. While many people of a liberal persuasion may celebrate the use of intent in this case, they should be wary of intent being a case against their interests in the future.

  2. bealpeyton says:

    Although Trump’s statements can be interpreted and dismissed as “just another, typical Trump attack on someone who disagrees with him or threatens his agenda,” what obviously makes this instance precarious is the fact that the target of the president’s criticism is a federal judge. With judges often being seen as “prestigious” or even “immune from personal criticism,” as we have discussed in class, people tend to be especially insensitive when one receives such an attack from the president of the United States, no less. The worry is that, gradually, the faith in the judicial system as an institution could be eroded by Trump, similarly to how he has contributed to the subversion of the media.
    Now, this could end up being a small hiccup for the Trump administration and our democracy; however, if Trump and those aligned with him continue an assault on the legitimacy of the judiciary branch, it is likely that their supporters will begin to lose faith as well. Consequently, we may witness a true constitutional crisis, meaning a standoff between the executive and judiciary over what is legal or enforceable. Hopefully this problem does not escalate to such a dangerous extent, but we should at least be weary of the possibility.

  3. amsturdam says:

    I really enjoyed this article. It will be interesting to see how the court will play apart in Trump’s presidency. Obviously this would be one of the topics that would cause controversy as it toes the line of what freedom of religion guarantees the public. I think another issue that may involve the supreme court could be abortion. Despite the ruling not being in his favor I am happy to see President Trump not disregarding the judiciary process. He obviously voiced his displeasure but didn’t attempt to go around it or just blatantly ignore the ruling. Based on some of the actions Trump has taken since being in office and also based on what he said on the campaign trail it would have been unfortunate to see the checks and balances placed within our government overruled. Regardless of where you stand on the issue it is important to allow the courts to do their job and ultimately interpret the constitution. Because of this I think the potential “damage” that a Trump presidency could cause is limited.

    • arc says:

      I definitely agree with your point about the Supreme Court. I don’t think the Supreme Court in its current form or its proposed form (with a Justice Gorsuch) would likely reinstate President Trump’s travel ban in its current form for a number of reasons. However, it is possible and perhaps probable that the Supreme Court balance will swing even further to the right during President Trump’s term. Many of the current justices are old and may retire or pass away. The next judicial appointment after Gorsuch will be momentous, as it could mean decisions like Roe V. Wade might not survive a Court with that number of conservative justices.

  4. lalalandsucked says:

    What’s interested me the most about Trump as a public figure since the beginning of his presidential campaign has been this mentality that if he repeats things enough they will hold some sort of weight in reality. His strategy with most of his lies seems to be to repeat them until enough people believe them to be true, whether he’s discussing fake news, voter fraud, or in this case the illegitimacy of our judiciary. While to some it may be easy to sort through the lies, he really seems to be attempting to rid the American people of any sort of biased intermediate and make himself the primary source of information. This is concerning for a number of reasons, but it is almost admirable that he has successfully constructed this narrative that so many Americans seem to somehow identify with enough to defend. His tactics of gradually chipping away at the legitimacy of certain institutions seems to be somewhat working with the media so it will be interesting to see how this all plays out with respect to other institutions he sees as obstacles.

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