By Louis Nelson
February 15, 2017
The executive powers of President Donald Trump are not above judicial review, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday, offering gentle pushback that followed assertions from White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller that federal judges overstepped their bounds by blocking one of Trump’s controversial executive orders on immigration.
“I mean, under the Constitution, all of our actions are subject to judicial review,” McConnell (R-Ky.) told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in an interview that was taped on Tuesday and aired Wednesday morning.
“All of the president’s actions?” host Joe Scarborough followed up.
“Yes, all of us, both Congress and president and that's, of course, happening,” McConnell replied. “The 9th Circuit has spoken on this issue and the White House will respond to it in one of the ways that they have to deal with this, including the possibility of issuing a different order.”
The court ruling to which McConnell referred is one from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a three-judge panel from which voted unanimously earlier this month to uphold a lower court’s ruling that blocked Trump’s order temporarily banning individuals from seven majority-Muslim nations from entering the U.S. That decision, as well as the initial ruling by U.S. District Court Judge James Robart, prompted Trump to lash out on Twitter.
“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” Trump wrote on Twitter after the initial decision blocking his order, following it the next day with another post. "Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!"
When the appeals court upheld the lower court’s opinion, Trump lashed out in all caps: “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!”
The following Sunday, in a wave of appearances on the Sunday political talk shows, Miller was harshly critical of the judges who had blocked Trump’s order. He told Fox News Sunday that “the president's powers here are beyond question” and called the court rulings “a judicial usurpation of power.”
“There's no such thing as judicial supremacy. What the judges did, both at the 9th and at the district level was to take power for themselves that belongs squarely in the hands of the president of the United States,” Miller told “Meet the Press” on NBC.
“The end result of this though is that our opponents, the media, and the whole world will see as we begin to take further actions that the powers of the President to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Scarborough also asked McConnell if he had spoken with Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court seat left vacant by Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, who died a year ago. He also asked whether Gorsuch had conveyed to the Senate majority leader concerns about the president’s rhetoric toward the judiciary.
Relaying the contents of his own conversation with Gorsuch, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said the Supreme Court nominee had called Trump’s attacks against the judiciary “disheartening” and “demoralizing,” a sentiment that was corroborated by other senators who met with Gorsuch.
McConnell said Trump’s nominee had not conveyed those thoughts during their meeting but that “I happen to agree with what he said. I mean, I think, you know, criticizing members of the judiciary, individually, is not a good idea. We all get opinions we don't like.”
Further, McConnell and Scarborough agreed that the White House should not have been surprised by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling, because the West Coast-based circuit is known to lean to the left.
“I wouldn’t be shocked by anything the 9th Circuit did,” McConnell chuckled. “I mean, we think of it as a bastion of liberalism and it has been for, really, a long time.”
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