President Trump Defends Immigration Order, Says Courts ‘So Political’

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
President Donald Trump speaks to members of the law enforcement at the Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA) Winter Conference in Washington, Wednesday. (Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

President Donald Trump defended his immigration executive order on Wednesday as necessary for the nation’s security in a speech to law enforcement officers in which he criticized U.S. courts as being political.

A three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday heard arguments on President Trump administration’s challenge to a lower court order putting his temporary travel ban on hold. The appeals court is expected to issue a ruling as soon as Wednesday.

“I don’t ever want to call a court biased,” President Trump told a few hundred police chiefs and sheriffs from major cities at a meeting in Washington. “So I won’t call it biased. And we haven’t had a decision yet. But courts seem to be so political. And it would be so great for our justice system if they would be able to read the statement and do what’s right.

“I think it’s a sad day. I think our security’s at risk today,” President Trump said.

The appeals court must decide if President Trump acted within his authority or whether his directive was tantamount to a discriminatory ban targeting Muslims. The appeals court judges questioned whether the directive improperly targeted people because of their religion.

“If these judges wanted to, in my opinion, help the court in terms of respect for the court, they’d do what they should be doing,” the president said.

Last week, President  Trump labeled the judge who put his directive on hold, U.S. District Judge James Robart of Seattle, who was appointed by Republican President George W. Bush, a “so-called judge.”

In a Twitter post earlier on Wednesday, President Trump wrote, “If the U.S. does not win this case as it so obviously should, we can never have the security and safety to which we are entitled. Politics!”

During an oral argument lasting more than an hour on Tuesday, the appeals court panel in San Francisco pressed an administration lawyer over whether President Trump administration’s national security argument was backed by evidence that people from the seven countries posed a danger.

At the meeting with law enforcement officials, President Trump read from the law he used to justify the travel ban, quoting it in fragments and sprinkling bits of interpretation in between. He said the law clearly allowed a president to suspend entry of any class of people if he determines they would be a detriment to national security.

“A bad high school student would understand this,” President Trump said. “Anybody would understand this.”

Judge Richard Clifton, who was appointed to the bench by Bush, posed equally tough questions for a lawyer representing Minnesota and Washington states, which are challenging the ban.