White House official attacks court after legal setbacks on immigration

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By Doina Chiacu and Julia Harte | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON A White House official on Sunday
attacked a U.S. court ruling that blocked President Donald
Trump’s executive order on immigration as a “judicial usurpation
of power” and said the administration was considering a range of
options, including a new order.

Sustained criticism of the judiciary from the White House
comes amid concern among Democrats and legal scholars over
Trump’s view of the constitutional principle of judicial
independence as the administration seeks to overcome legal
setbacks to its travel ban issued on Jan. 27.

It has also become the backdrop against which U.S. senators
consider Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, for
a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court.

The Republican president said on Friday that he may issue a
new executive order rather than go through lengthy court
challenges to the original one, which temporarily barred entry
to the United States of people from seven Muslim-majority
countries.

“We have multiple options and we are considering all of
them,” White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller said on
ABC’s “This Week.”

Miller sharply criticized the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals ruling on Thursday that upheld a Seattle federal judge’s
suspension of Trump’s executive order. He accused the San
Francisco-based court of having a history of overreaching and of
being overturned.

“This is a judicial usurpation of power,” he said on “Fox
News Sunday.” “The president’s powers here are beyond question.”

The Trump administration has defended the travel ban on
grounds it will prevent potential terrorists from entering the
country, although no acts of terrorism have been perpetrated on
U.S. soil by citizens of the targeted countries.

The ban’s announcement, late on a Friday, sparked a weekend
of confusion at airports around the globe and within the federal
agencies charged with enforcing it. It also triggered widespread
protests and legal challenges.

Aware that a new executive order would allow critics to
declare victory against the travel ban, the White House has
deflected blame and intensified its criticism of the judiciary.

“I think it’s been an important reminder to all Americans
that we have a judiciary that has taken far too much power and
become in many cases a supreme branch of government,” Miller
said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“One unelected judge in Seattle cannot make laws for the
entire country. I mean this is just crazy,” he said.

Miller’s performance on several Sunday news shows won a
plaudit on Twitter from Trump, who has himself attacked
individual judges and called the courts “so political.”

“Great job!” Trump tweeted.

ATTACKS CONDEMNED

Gorsuch condemned the attacks on the judiciary as “disheartening” in private meetings last week with a number of
U.S. senators, who pressed the judge to go public. Ron Bonjean,
a Republican strategist, confirmed the conversations.

Legal experts said the Trump administration statements could
undermine respect for the constitutional division of powers.

Cornell University law professor Jens David Ohlin said that
accusing the judiciary of usurping the president’s powers
demonstrated “an absurd lack of appreciation for the separation
of powers.”

“Miller is coming dangerously close to reviving a
discredited and dangerous theory that each branch of government,
including the president, has independent authority to decide
what the law and Constitution mean,” Ohlin said in an interview
on Sunday.

“In our system of government, the commander in chief
executes the laws, but it is the judiciary which interprets both
the laws and statutes passed by Congress and the Constitution.
That’s their solemn duty,” he added.

Ilya Shapiro, a senior fellow in constitutional studies at
the libertarian Cato Institute, said Trump’s remarks could
diminish popular respect for institutions of law and order by
making Americans think “the government’s a joke, that you don’t
have to follow what judges say.”

Immigration laws give the U.S. president broad powers to
restrict who enters the country on national security grounds.

But the same laws forbid discrimination based on race, sex,
nationality or place of birth or residence. The case also could
involve First Amendment protections involving religion.

Trump’s executive order banned entry into the United States
to refugees and citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan,
Syria and Yemen for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days,
except refugees from Syria, who were banned indefinitely.

Options for the administration include formulating a new
executive action, appealing the 9th Circuit panel’s decision to
the full appeals court and appealing the emergency stay to the
U.S. Supreme Court, Miller said.



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