James Robart, the U.S. district judge in Washington State, offered little explanation for his decision to stop President Trump's executive order temporarily suspending non-American entry from seven terror-plagued countries.
By: Byron York
Now the government has answered Robart, and unlike the judge, Justice Department lawyers have produced a point-by-point demolition of Washington State's claims. Indeed, for all except the most partisan, it is likely impossible to read the Washington State lawsuit, plus Robart's brief comments and writing on the matter, plus the Justice Department's response, and not come away with the conclusion that the Trump order is on sound legal and constitutional ground.
Beginning with the big picture, the Justice Department argued that Robart's restraining order violates the separation of powers, encroaches on the president's constitutional and legal authority in the areas of foreign affairs, national security, and immigration, and "second-guesses the president's national security judgment" about risks faced by the United States.
Indeed, in court last week, Robart suggested that he, Robart, knows as much, or perhaps more, than the president about the current state of the terrorist threat in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and other violence-plagued countries. In an exchange with Justice Department lawyer Michelle Bennett, Robart asked, "How many arrests have there been of foreign nationals for those seven countries since 9/11?"
"Your Honor, I don't have that information," said Bennett.
"Let me tell you," said Robart. "The answer to that is none, as best I can tell. So, I mean, you're here arguing on behalf of someone [President Trump] that says: We have to protect the United States from these individuals coming from these countries, and there's no support for that."
Perhaps Robart has been briefed by the intelligence community on conditions in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and the rest. Perhaps Robart has received the President's Daily Brief. Perhaps not.** In any event, the Justice Department argued — reasonably but not successfully — that it is the president, and not a U.S. District Court judge in the Western District of Washington State, who has the knowledge and the authority to make such decisions.
"Your Honor, I think the point is that because this is a question of foreign affairs, because this is an area where Congress has delegated authority to the president to make these determinations, it's the president that gets to make the determinations," Bennett said. "And the court doesn't have authority to look behind those determinations."
Robart rejected that position outright. Later, in its emergency brief filed Saturday night with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, the government argued that a U.S. District Court judge has no legal right to stop a presidential action in which the president exercised his own constitutional power to conduct foreign policy, as well as power delegated by him to Congress in the area of immigration. The political branches of government have plenary authority over those areas, the government argued, citing cases from 1950, 1952, and 1999: