• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Subscribe
  • RSS

Donald Trump Undermines Defense Of His Muslim Ban In Morning Tweetstorm

Trump Gavel

For the second time in as many days,  Donald Trump took to Twitter this morning and proceeded to undermine the legal arguments being made by his own Justice Department in their attempt to defend the Executive Order barring travel from six predominantly Muslim nations, and once again it appears that he was provoked mostly by what he was watching on television:

WASHINGTON — President Trump rebelled on Monday against his own advisers who “watered down” his original executive order barring visitors from select Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States and who insisted on calling it something other than a travel ban.

Returning to one of the issues that animated the early days of his presidency and generated a court battle that has now gone to the Supreme Court, Mr. Trump argued that it was a mistake to revise the first order he signed and suggested that his administration should return to a “much tougher version.”

In a series of Twitter posts just two days after a terrorist attack killed at least seven people in London, Mr. Trump seemed to reject everything his own administration has done to win court approval for restrictions on entry from countries that he designated, both in terms of vocabulary and in terms of its provisions.

“People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!” he wrote.

It was his own staff who insisted it was not a travel ban. Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, spent much of one early briefing telling reporters not to call it that. “It’s not a travel ban,” Mr. Spicer insisted. “When we use words like travel ban, that misrepresents what it is.”

At the time, John F. Kelly, the secretary of homeland security, also rejected the phrase. “This is not a travel ban,” he said. “This is a temporary pause that allows us to better review the existing refugee an visa vetting system.”

Mr. Trump seemed to be reacting to a segment on “Morning Joe” on MSNBC on Monday that, just a few minutes before the president’s tweets, highlighted the administration’s past statements on whether the order was a travel ban. The issue was renewed on Saturday night when Mr. Trump responded to the London attack by arguing again for the order, which he called a travel ban. “We need the courts to give us back our rights,” he wrote that night.

On Monday, Mr. Trump expressed frustration that his administration rewrote his original order, which was thrown out by the courts, it in an effort to pass judicial muster. The second version was also rejected, and the administration last week appealed to the Supreme Court.

“The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C.,” he wrote.

He added: “The Justice Dept. should ask for an expedited hearing of the watered down Travel Ban before the Supreme Court — & seek much tougher version!”

Mr. Trump’s tweets may undercut the administration’s efforts to revive the revised executive order. His lawyers have asked the Supreme Court to ignore statements by Mr. Trump during the presidential campaign, when he called for a “Muslim ban,” in assessing the constitutionality of the executive order. They have also said that the revised order addressed any judicial objections to the earlier one by deleting explicit references to religion.

But in calling the revised order “politically correct,” Mr. Trump suggested that his goal was still to make distinctions based on religion. And in calling the revised order “watered down,” he made it harder for his lawyers to argue that it was a clean break from the earlier one.

Mr. Trump’s language suggested that the decision was somehow made by someone other than him, even though the Justice Department acts on the president’s orders in matters of policy such as this. The second version he criticized on Monday took Iraq off the list of countries that would be affected and made clear that the restrictions did not apply to those who hold green cards or valid visas. It also eliminated a provision that seemed to prioritize Christian refugees for entry.

The revised version, like the first, barred all refugees from entering the country for 120 days and from Syria indefinitely. It barred entry for 90 days for any visitors from six countries: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

“In any event we are EXTREME VETTING people coming into the U.S. in order to help keep our country safe,” Mr. Trump wrote on Monday. “The courts are slow and political!”

Here are the tweets in question, in chronological order:

These tweets appear to have been motivated by a segment during the first hour of MSNBC’s Morning Joe:

As The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips notes, Trump’s tweets are most notable because they clearly undermine the case Justice Department lawyers are attempting to make on appeal while providing further ammunition to Plaintiff’s attorneys seeking to argue that the Executive Order is a ban on Muslims regardless of how it is characterized by the President’s lawyer now. As Phillips notes, the tweets are potentially troubling for any lawyer seeking to defend the Executive Order. For one thing, they amount to yet another attack on the integrity of the judicial system, something that Trump has a long history of doing, since it basically says that it doesn’t matter to him what the Courts say, which is about as close to a reprise of Andrew Jackson’s infamous quip in response to an adverse Supreme Court ruling on the Indian Removal Act that “Mr. [Chief Justice John] Marshall has made his ruling. Let him enforce it.” In other words, it’s about as close as a sitting President can get to an open confrontation with a co-equal branch of the Federal Government on the eve of what will be the Supreme Court’s first real opportunity to rule on a Trump Administration action. While the Justices are largely limited to ruling on the law as applied to the case before them, they are also human beings who will be aware of what the President has said when considering his Administration’s position. This is likely to have at least some impact on how even those sympathetic to those arguments ultimately rule.

The second way that Trump’s tweets today are effectively undermining his case is the fact that he’s suggesting that policies currently in place are keeping the country secure. In one Tweet, Trump argues that his Administration’s policy of “extreme vetting,” which he chose to capitalize for some reason, suggests that policies already in place that are not impacted by the stays imposed by Federal Courts in Hawaii and Maryland are keeping the country secure. That, in turn, suggests that the travel ban that is embodied in the Executive Order is unnecessary to national security. This undermines the argument that Administration lawyers have made on appeal that the ban is motivated by national security needs, not by a desire to ban Muslims from entering the country. After all, if “extreme vetting,” whatever that may be, is sufficient to keep the nation secure then the argument that the travel ban is necessitated by national security is undermined even further than it already has been by the fact that government lawyers have been unable to provide any Court with evidence to support the argument that travelers from the six nations at issue are a unique security risk as compared to travelers from any other nation on Earth.

The biggest manner in which Trump has undermined his own Administration’s case, of course, comes from the fact that he refers to it often and frequently as a “ban” even as his own spokespersons and the Justice Department attorneys handling the appeal of his Executive Order. In both cases, the position that the White House and the Justice Department have taken is that the Executive Order does not constitute a ban either on Muslims entering the country or on travel. Instead, they’ve argued that it is merely a means of screening people arriving into the United States in order to enhance the ability to prevent likely terrorists from being able to slip through the dragnet that existing law provides. Trump continuing to refer to the E.O. as a “ban” only serves to provide more ammunnition to the lawyers around the country seeking to keep the stay in place.

One could ask why Trump does these things, but the truth of the matter is that there really doesn’t seem to be a rational explanation. Whether its foreign policy or dealings with the Courts, his continued Twitter habit continues to backfire on him, to completely wreck whatever messaging strategy his advisers may have for the week ahead, and to undermine his own position either on the world stage or before the nation’s highest court. In a rational universe, not only would a President not be doing these things, but he or she would not be utilizing a public network such as Twitter at all. The fact that none of his top advisers, including his own daughter and son-in-law, can’t control him in any manner when it comes to this behavior indicates that we’re dealing with a President who doesn’t know how to be President and doesn’t care to learn.

Related Posts:

About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    There are three, all-purpose explanations that cover ever single aspect of Trump’s regime:

    1) “The president’s a moron, therefore he. . .”

    2) “The president is Putin’s knob-polisher, therefore he. . .”

    3) “The president really, really, really likes money, therefore he. . .”

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 3

  2. Bob@Younsgtown says:

    we’re dealing with a President who doesn’t know how to be President and doesn’t care to learn.

    and water continues to be wet.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  3. M. Bouffant says:

    At least that awful Hillary Clinton isn’t President. Man, she would have been the worst!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  4. CSK says:

    I’ve said this before, but the man (sic) simply cannot bear not to have the last word, even if he torpedoes himself.

    We keep judging him by rational standards, and we keep forgetting he’s not rational.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  5. MarkedMan says:

    Although the courts are mostly focused on the law itself, they also consider the follow-on effects of a ruling. And if they have an ounce of intelligence they will understand that if they rule with the administration, two minutes after that Trump will tweet: “My Muslim Ban was upheld just as I promised!”. In other words, if the predominantly Republican Supreme Court Justices decide to give the Republican administration their support by accepting the fiction that this was not targeted on the basis of religion, they should understand that Trump will see them as losers, treat them as he always treats losers and immediately show them up for the fools they are.

    And then the court will be left in the unenviable position of either pretending not to hear what Trump says, or signaling that they will accept another case overturning what they just ruled. And if the Republican Justices signal back and forth with administration officials or even Trump himself ahead of a ruling so they arrive at an understanding that Trump won’t humiliate them in this way, well, then they will find out what Trump’s “allies” always find out: his word is worth nothing.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 0

  6. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Let’s look at the upside of Dumb Don…
    Now, when I see a car with a Trump sticker, I know beyond any doubt that the owner is mentally deficient…probably barely capable of driving…and I give them wide berth. Before, you really had no way of knowing for sure until it was too late.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  7. Argon says:

    SSDD.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  8. teve tory says:

    JKB says:
    Sunday, February 5, 2017 at 16:17
    Well, contrary to delusions, this is not a Muslim ban, but rather a targeted moratorium against travelers and immigrants from nations that do not have functioning government/police or in Iran’s case a documented supporter of terrorism and self-declared enemy of the United States.

    Read more: http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/most-americans-oppose-trumps-muslim-travel-ban/#ixzz4j9gZ97qH

    I guess JKB thinks Trump is delusional.

    “I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: ‘O Lord make my enemies ridiculous.’ And God granted it.” – Voltaire

    Everybody who takes Trump’s side winds up humiliated.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  9. al-Alameda says:

    @M. Bouffant:

    At least that awful Hillary Clinton isn’t President. Man, she would have been the worst!!

    To be fair, by now she would be embroiled in impeachment proceedings initiated by his toxic House.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  10. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    It also seems to demolish the probably most cogent argument in the case. It will now be impossible to argue that the statements of candidate Trump should not be admissable to judge political acts by President Trump.

    While unconvincing to me, these at least were legally and politically cogent, unlike the whole “necessary for security reasons” stuff.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  11. Hal_10000 says:

    The tweets are so bad for his case that people were speculating that he’d rather the ban be struck down so he can be martyr. I think that’s reading too much into his actions — as Ken White said, this is less four dimensional chess than two dimensional hungry hungry hippos. But if SCOTUS rules against him, it will be a biblical meltdown. And if there is a terrorist attack — whether the ban would have affected it or not — he will try to ride that into the next election.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 0

  12. SC_Birdflyte says:

    A quotation from (I think) Aeschylus runs through my mind whenever I see one of DT’s tweets: “Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  13. David M says:

    Has anyone asked Trump why the ban is still necessary? Enough time has passed that the should have implemented the extreme vetting by now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  14. Paul L. says:

    ACLU v. Trump opinion says Illegal Aliens have all of the same Constitutional Rights as US Citizens including voting.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 24

  15. Pch101 says:

    @teve tory:

    JKB was born humiliated, so nothing has changed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  16. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    So much winning…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  17. Matthew Bernius says:

    @Paul L.:

    ACLU v. Trump opinion says Illegal Aliens have all of the same Constitutional Rights as US Citizens including voting.

    Call, please deliver the passage where voting rights are included in the opinion (or even addressed).

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 0

  18. CSK says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    I’m so tired of winning, I’m plain exhausted.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  19. Davebo says:

    @Paul L.: Well illegal aliens do have all the same constitutional rights as citizens. Minus the voting part.

    Want to really get mad?? Murders have all the same constitutional rights as non-murders!!

    What whack website are you parroting today?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  20. teve tory says:

    Hal_10000 says:
    Monday, June 5, 2017 at 14:57
    The tweets are so bad for his case that people were speculating that he’d rather the ban be struck down so he can be martyr. I think that’s reading too much into his actions — as Ken White said, this is less four dimensional chess than two dimensional hungry hungry hippos.

    We all have the desire to look for complex backstage machinations that make things smarter, more consistent. Part of our evolutionary programming to try to deduce intent behind events. But in this case, it’s really simpler.

    “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” -Maya Angelou

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  21. CSK says:

    Even to say that Trump is playing two-dimensional hungry hungry hippos is to ascribe too much rationality to him. He doesn’t think. He’s not capable of it. He’s purely a creature off appetite and impulse. He exists purely in the moment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  22. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @David M:

    Has anyone asked Trump why the ban is still necessary?

    If it’s like Health Care or the Paris Agreement or anything else he probably doesn’t even know what it does. This guy is in so far over his head…to say that he is floundering is understatement…it would be funny if it wasn’t such a dangerous situation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  23. Pch101 says:

    Trump is a dumb sociopath who loves the sound of his own voice, trusts his instincts entirely too much and has no impulse control.

    Such wonderful qualities for a world leader.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  24. Franklyn says:

    That Jackson quote is aprocryphal, so please stop using it. Jackson did make some similar quote mentioning a Tiger, but from what I’ve read Horace Greeley created the quote that you used.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  25. Kylopod says:

    The Trump era is sometimes described as Orwellian, and that’s true to some extent. (The whole “War is peace” formula is distinctly Trumpian.) But there are ways in which Trumpism almost comes as a relief compared to the Orwellian qualities of normal politics. For example, one of the most Orwellian phrases in politics since the start of the 21st century is “enhanced interrogation.” In 2016, Trump didn’t talk about enhanced interrogation. He simply called it torture, and said that torture is awesome.

    I think a similar principle is operating here.

    It’s this tendency that has misled some observers into thinking of Trump as more honest than the average politician, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. But there’s more than one way to deceive, and Trump doesn’t do much of the obfuscatory kind. That would require subtlety, something that is as alien to his nature as humility.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  26. Gustopher says:

    If Trump is opposed to things that are “politically correct”, why was he bothered by a 3rd rate comedian holding his severed head?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  27. KM says:

    @Kylopod :

    It’s this tendency that has misled some observers into thinking of Trump as more honest than the average politician, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. But there’s more than one way to deceive, and Trump doesn’t do much of the obfuscatory kind. That would require subtlety, something that is as alien to his nature as humility.

    Trump can’t be bothered to be politically or diplomatically correct because he’d have to expand his vocabulary. Hell, he can’t be bothered to be correct period for the same reason! He says what he says because they are small words he can remember and repeat 5 times in a row.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  28. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @CSK: I can see you’ve never actually played hungry hungry hippos.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  29. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: It’s completely different. Political correctness is about meanness directed at other people. 3rd rate (really, that high?) comedians are about meanness directed at him. Additionally, political correctness is about his right to be mean whereas the other is about someone else’s right to do so.

    The distinction was also pointed out by the defenders of Cat scratch fever guy whose name I just zoned on. Completely different.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  30. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker: Ned Tugent–or something like that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  31. Stormy Dragon says:

    I’m starting to think we should be thankful Trump won. Can you imagine the damage if the racist criminal running the country wasn’t constantly hamstrung by being an incompetent boob?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  32. MarkedMan says:

    Tangent alert:
    In my younger days a high school band I roadied and worked sound for did a cover of Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold” complete with phase shifters and everything and I though it was the coolest thing I ever heard. I still think it’s a great song musically and technically, but a few years ago I purchased it on iTunes and gave it a close listen. And I paid attention to the lyrics. Ted Nugent is a misogyinistic psychopath, or at least he was then. Who else comes up with words like these (excerpted):

    You ran the night that you left me
    You put me in my place
    I got you in a stranglehold, baby
    You better trust your fate

    Road I cruise is a bitch now
    Ya know ya can’t turn me round
    And if a house gets in my way
    Ya know I’ll burn it down

    You ran the night that you left me
    You put me in my place
    I got you in a stranglehold, baby
    That night I crushed your face

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  33. Pch101 says:

    @MarkedMan:

    To be fair, there is artistic license involved in creative work. One should not presume that a given piece is autobiographical or indicative of anything. It can be written from the standpoint of a character who bears no relationship to the author or performer.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  34. michael reynolds says:

    @MarkedMan:
    Well, among other things I’ve come up with an LPG tanker ship where the big spheres contained mind-controlled cultists; a grim reaper character who punishes teenagers by making them live their most gruesome fear; a kid who morphs into a rat and is then trapped so that he can never return to human form; cigar torches to the eyeball; a sadistic psychopath with a ten foot long tentacle he uses as a whip; carnivorous worms that enter through your heel and eat you from the inside out; drones ‘piloted’ by harvested child brains. . .

    So. I can diss Nugent as a troll, but ‘creatives’ are often not quite normal. On more than one occasion my wife has looked at me as I describe some scene I’m writing and asked, “Why am I married to you?”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  35. Grewgills says:

    The title of an article I read immediately after the first attempt at a travel ban encapsulates Trump perfectly, “Malevolence Tempered by Incompetence.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  36. teve tory says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Stormy Dragon says:
    Monday, June 5, 2017 at 17:28
    I’m starting to think we should be thankful Trump won. Can you imagine the damage if the racist criminal running the country wasn’t constantly hamstrung by being an incompetent boob?

    When the dumb asshole politician in question is more restrained and mannered, like Mike Pence and Paul Ryan, it’s much easier for beltway water-carrier sophisticates to try to massage their policies into something that sounds tolerable. When the shitty policies are shouted by an obviously shitty person, the Will/Brooks/Douthat/Cilizza types don’t have such an easy time obscuring the reality, and they get uncomfortable being linked to such a group.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  37. MarkedMan says:

    I wonder if there is a stirring in the Republican cesspool that it may be a good thing if the Democrats take back the House and even the Senate in 2018. Because then Trump would be someone else’s problem.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  38. teve tory says:

    They very much want the Senate. Odds are they’ll get to replace Breyer or RBG or Kennedy. A lot of people don’t realize the potential consequences we’ll almost certainly experience.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  39. MarkedMan says:

    @teve tory: You’re most probably right. And the reality is there is almost no chance of them losing the Senate, in fact, it will take a miracle if they don’t gain seats.

    But I suspect that many Republicans feel much more comfortable in the minority. Oh, they will fight like hell for their own seat, but might feel more at ease if they could just oppose, oppose, oppose and throw off the awful burden of having to actually accomplish something.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  40. teve tory says:

    I’m still laughing at JKB.

    Donald J. Trump‏ Verified account
    @realDonaldTrump

    People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!

    I’m gonna be laughing at that idiot all week.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  41. CSK says:

    Apparently Trump is very upset with Sessions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0