- - Thursday, June 28, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

President Trump owes a huge debt of gratitude to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling that he has full authority to ban travel to the U.S. from certain Muslim countries.

The Kentucky Republican’s refusal to confirm President Barack Obama’s liberal nominee, following the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016, kept the seat vacant throughout the rest of the election year.

Democrats were screaming bloody murder as the Republican leader stubbornly held his ground for 10 months, resisting any move to fill the seat until after the presidential election.

Mr. Trump’s electoral victory meant that a conservative jurist, Neil Gorsuch, would preserve the court’s Republican majority.

Throughout his campaign, Mr. Trump made no secret of his plan, in his speeches and online, for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”



But as the ban slowly worked its way through the courts, the president’s justification appeared to suggest to his critics that it was based less on national security grounds than on religious bias.

The administration’s reasoning underwent at least three revisals — changes that in the end had the court focusing more on whether the president had the authority to impose the ban.

That was the key issue in a unanimous opinion from a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals in the 9th Circuit, which concluded that the president had exceeded his authority. And that he hadn’t made a convincing argument that allowing travel to the U.S. from six Muslim-majority countries would be “detrimental to the interests of the United States.”

Then the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond concluded that the proposed ban was driven more by opposition to Muslims than with national security.

But Mr. Trump’s attitude toward Muslims in the Middle East countries affected by the ban seemed less significant to the five-member majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr.

While Justice Roberts went over a number of statements and critical tweets made by Mr. Trump about Muslims, that was not the salient issue before the court, he wrote.

The “issue before us is not whether to denounce the statements,” he said. “It is instead the significance of those statements in reviewing a Presidential directive, neutral on its face, addressing a matter within the core of executive responsibility. In doing so, we must consider not only the statements of a particular president, but also the authority of the Presidency itself.”

Then, Justice Roberts added, “We express no view on the soundness of the policy.”

The dissenters on the bench were fiery and angry.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor reminded her colleagues of Mr. Trump’s anti-immigrant campaign statements, tweets and videos, one of which was titled “Muslim Destroys a Statue of Virgin Mary!”

“Our Constitution demands, and our country deserves, a Judiciary willing to hold the coordinate branches to account when they defy our most sacred legal commitments,” she wrote in her dissenting opinion. “Because the Court’s decision today has failed in that respect.”

Mr. Trump won his first round in the fight over immigration in the courts, but more court battles are likely to be decided in the months to come.

He was forced into an embarrassing retreat on his “zero tolerance” program that separated undocumented parents from their children on the Mexican border.

Then he lost his request for a $25 billion down payment to build his wall, contained in an immigration reform bill that failed to pass muster in Congress last week.

Mr. Trump appears to be losing badly in the court of public opinion, too. According to a recent Gallup Poll, a 57 percent “majority of Americans oppose building a wall along our southern border,” Business Insider reported this week.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), that Mr. Trump has tried to shut down, is aimed at kids who were brought to our country by illegal parents when they were infants or very young, who have lived in the U.S. for most of their lives, graduated from high school, gone to college, have jobs, and have lived exemplary lives.

Gallup reported that 83 percent of Americans support allowing these so-called “Dreamers” to become citizens.

Mr. Trump has said the Gallup poll numbers are fake, but it is the oldest and most trusted polling group in the country. As a businessman, Mr. Trump should know that there are some numbers worth watching.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.

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