First, candidate Donald Trump said a judge of Mexican descent couldn't give him a fair hearing.
Now, President Trump's attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is suggesting that a judge from Hawaii — which he dismissively labels “an island in the Pacific” — should not be able to strike down Trump's travel ban.
Here's what Sessions told radio host Mark Levin on Wednesday, in audio uncovered by CNN's Andrew Kaczynski:
We are confident that the president will prevail on appeal and particularly in the Supreme Court, if not the Ninth Circuit. So this is a huge matter. I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and Constitutional power.
There are a few problems with this.
The first is that Hawaii is a state and has been since 1959. Dismissing it as “an island in the Pacific” is the kind of thing that will earn you the pleasure of apologizing to an entire state. We'll start the countdown clock.
The second is that the judge isn't a Hawaiian judge, per se. Derrick Watson is actually a federal judge who happens to serve on a district court in Hawaii. And in case you were wondering, he has some of that all-important mainland experience and perspective, having worked as a lawyer in San Francisco.
And the third is that Hawaii does have major ports of entry, with international travelers arriving regularly. (We hear the beaches are nice or something?) Hence, it is affected by Trump's travel ban.
This is hardly the first time the Trump administration has sought to undercut or question the powers of judges who run afoul of Trump. There was Gonzalo Curiel, of course, and then there was Trump's lengthy campaign to question whether the courts even had the authority of overrule his travel ban. Even now-Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch called Trump's attacks on judges “demoralizing” and “disheartening.”
Trump seemed to back away from those attacks for a while. But now Sessions has picked them up again.
Your move, entire state of Hawaii.
Update: Hawaii's two Democratic senators have responded:
Mr. Attorney General: You voted for that judge. And that island is called Oahu. It's my home. Have some respect. https://t.co/sW9z3vqBqG
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) April 20, 2017
Hey Jeff Sessions, this #IslandinthePacific has been the 50th state for going on 58 years. And we won’t succumb to your dog whistle politics
— Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) April 20, 2017
Update No. 2: In a statement, the Department of Justice doubles down -- including on the "island in the Pacific" part: