Trump’s Own Words Trip Up His Travel Ban — Again

So far, travel ban 2.0 is taking the same route as travel ban 1.0 -- and it's entirely Trump's fault. Again.

Mar 30, 2017 at 11:06 AM ET

The Trump administration’s second attempt at a travel ban on certain Muslim majority countries continues to take the same route through the justice system as the first one did. On Wednesday night, a federal judge in Hawaii extended a temporary restraining order into a preliminary injunction.

Judge Derrick Watson, who issued the restraining order two weeks ago hours before the second ban attempt was scheduled to go into effect, converted it into an injunction just before the restraining order was set to expire. In his earlier ruling, he allowed past statements from Trump and his surrogates from the campaign and after that described the ban as explicitly targeting Muslims to be considered as motivation behind the executive order.

Other judges who have made similar rulings against the ban have also referred to such statements. Trump continues to have a 2015 statement advocating for a Muslim ban up on his website.

In Wednesday’s ruling, Watson said there was a “strong likelihood” that the state of Hawaii would succeed in its quest to have the order ruled unconstitutional and issued an injunction barring it from taking effect until a court can make such a ruling. His decision basically came down to finding that the executive order was discriminatory against a certain religion, if not in exact words in the order itself, than in the context surrounding its creation. This included comments made by the Trump administration about how the first executive order was intended to ban Muslims from certain countries from entering America, and from Trump himself.

There was even a new Trump quote Watson could use in his ruling: Trump’s very own response to Watson’s restraining order. At a Nashville rally when the first decision came down, Trump exclaimed to his adoring fans that the second order was a “watered-down version of the first order.” This, Watson wrote, indicated that the second order was simply an attempt to get around the rulings that prevented the first one from taking effect. Once again, Trump’s inability to stop himself from lashing out at people who tell him “no” — something he was able to do with few constraints as a private citizen with inherited wealth and power but which has proven to be problematic for his presidency — has been used against him. Oops.

Some right-wing websites alleged that Watson, a former classmate of President Obama, was conspiring with him to interfere with Trump’s policies. Several employees of the Independent Journal Review were suspended after a now-retracted story suggested that Obama traveled to Hawaii for this purpose. Watson has been the subject of death threats since he made the first ruling against Trump’s ban.

Trump’s first attempt at a travel ban, signed in January, progressed similarly through the court system. A Washington judge issued a temporary restraining order days after it was issued which was then converted into a preliminary injunction. That decision was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Though Trump screamed out a tweet indicating he would take the matter to an even higher court, the administration ultimately issued a second order instead that removed some of the language judges who ruled against it found problematic. Iraq, for example, was removed from the list of temporarily banned countries, the indefinite Syrian refugee ban was changed to 120 days, green card and existing visa holders were allowed into the country, and the preference given to persecuted religious minorities was taken out.

But this has not been enough to ward off legal challenges to the ban’s second incarnation, which the Trump administration will now have to take to a federal court of appeals if it wants to reverse Watson’s decision and remove the injunction. Hawaii is in the Ninth Circuit … which means that Trump’s lawyers will be facing the same federal appeals court that rejected them last time.