Donald Trump’s administration has appealed a federal judge’s order that blocked the US president’s ban on travellers from seven Muslim-majority nations.
The Justice Department appeal on Saturday came one day after a US district judge filed a nationwide order halting the ban’s implementation. Since then, the Department of Homeland Security has reverted to standard, previous procedure in admitting people from the affected countries.
The Department of Justice declined to comment on the appeal “beyond the filing at this time,” in an email to AFP.
Trump on Saturday denounced the judge who lifted the travel ban he had imposed on citizens of seven mainly Muslim countries, taking an unusual jab at an independent branch of the US government as he vowed to bring back the restrictions.
Trump’s personal attack on US District Judge James Robart went too far for some who said he was undermining an institution designed to check the power of the White House and Congress.
As the ban lifted, refugees and thousands of travellers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen who had been stopped in their tracks last weekend by Trump’s executive order scrambled to get flights to quickly enter the United States.
The Justice Department on Saturday filed a formal notice that it intends to appeal the ruling made by Robart in Seattle late on Friday. The judge appointed by former Republican President George W Bush questioned the constitutionality of Trump’s order.
“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” Trump said on Twitter early on Saturday.
Trump has said “extreme vetting” of refugees and immigrants is needed to prevent terrorist attacks.
Eight hours later, Trump showed no signs of backing down when he tweeted “What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into US?”
Trump’s tweets criticising the judge’s decision could undermine the credibility of Justice Department attorneys as they seek to defend the executive order in Washington state and other courts, said Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, adding that presidents are usually circumspect about commenting on government litigation. “It’s hard for the President to demand that courts respect his inherent authority when he is disrespecting the inherent authority of the judiciary. That certainly tends to poison the well for litigation,” Turley said.
It is unusual for a president to attack a member of the judiciary, which the US Constitution designates as a check to the power of the executive branch and Congress. Reached by email, Robart declined comment on Trump’s tweets. Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland said Trump went too far by attacking the judge and the integrity of the judicial branch. “He is undermining the entire system of government, not only the decisions with which he disagrees,” Cardin said in a statement. “Read the ‘so-called’ Constitution,” tweeted Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence committee.
In an interview with ABC scheduled to air on Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence said he did not think that Trump’s criticisms of the judge undermined the separation of powers. “I think the American people are very accustomed to this president speaking his mind and speaking very straight with them,” Pence said, according to an excerpt of the interview.
The court ruling was the first move in what could be months of legal challenges to Trump’s push to clamp down on immigration. His order set off chaos last week at airports across the United States where travelers were stranded and thousands of people gathered to protest.
Americans are divided over Trump’s order. A Reuters/Ipsos poll this week showed 49% favoured it while 41% did not.