As President Donald Trump seeks to implement a version of his travel ban targeting some majority Muslim countries, his team's past statements on the matter may keep coming back to haunt him.
US District Judge Derrick Watson put an emergency stop on Trump's revised travel ban on Wednesday — just hours before it was scheduled to go into effect.
In his opinion, Watson centers on the historical background and the context of the executive order. "The record before this Court is unique," said Watson in his opinion. "It includes significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus driving the promulgation of the Executive Order and its related predecessor."
"The illogic of the Government’s contentions is palpable," Watson added.
He offered the following example from CNN's television broadcast of an interview between Anderson Cooper and Trump last year:
"In March 2016, Mr. Trump said, during an interview, 'I think Islam hates us.' Mr. Trump was asked, 'Is there a war between the West and radical Islam, or between the West and Islam itself?'
He replied: 'It’s very hard to separate. Because you don’t know who’s who.'
In that same interview, Mr. Trump stated: 'But there’s a tremendous hatred. And we have to be very vigilant. We have to be very careful. And we can’t allow people coming into this country who have this hatred of the United States. . . [a]nd of people that are not Muslim.'"
The judge included an excerpt from an interview with NBC's Meet the Press from October the same year:
"Your running mate said this week that the Muslim ban is no longer your position. Is that correct? And if it is, was it a mistake to have a religious test?”
Mr. Trump replied: “The Muslim ban is something that in some form has morphed into a[n] extreme vetting from certain areas of the world.” When asked to clarify whether “the Muslim ban still stands,” Mr. Trump said, “It’s called extreme vetting.”
In response to the revised travel ban that replaced the first executive order — which was slapped down by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in February — Watson argued in his ruling that the White House intended to prioritize religion above secularism with its travel ban, citing statements from an adviser to Trump:
"... the President’s Senior Adviser, Stephen Miller, stated, 'Fundamentally ... you’re still going to have the same basic policy outcome [as the first].'
These plainly-worded statements, in many cases, made by the Executive himself, betray the Executive Order’s stated secular purpose.
Any reasonable, objective observer would conclude, as does the Court ... that the stated secular purpose of the Executive Order is, at the very least, 'secondary to a religious objective' of temporarily suspending the entry of Muslims."
Advocacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union echoed Judge Watson's sentiments in a statement released after the ruling:
"We are pleased but not surprised by this latest development and will continue working to ensure the Muslim ban never takes effect," the ACLU tweeted, moments after the verdict.
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