Pence defends Trump's attack on judge, predicts victory for travel ban

President Trump continued to attack a federal judge Sunday who voided his travel ban from seven Muslim majority nations, and said he would demand that homeland security officials give extra scrutiny to people entering the United States from those countries.

"Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril," Trump tweeted. "If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!"

While his Justice Department appeals the decision by U.S. District Judge James Robart striking down the ban, Trump also tweeted that he has "instructed Homeland Security to check people coming into our country VERY CAREFULLY. The courts are making the job very difficult!"

Trump took to social media hours after Vice President Pence defended the president's attack on Robart. Pence also predicted that a higher court would eventually uphold the measure in the name of national security.

"We are going to win the arguments because we’re going to take the steps necessary to protect the country, which the president of the United States has the authority to do," Pence said on Fox News Sunday, one in a series of news show interviews.

Pence told  ABC's This Week that Trump was "speaking his mind" when he denounced a "so-called" judge — Robart, who is based in Seattle — for ruling against the travel ban.

Early Sunday, a federal appeals court rejected a request by Trump's Justice Department to immediately restore the travel ban; the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit based in San Francisco said a reply from the Trump administration is due on Monday.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., also speaking on Fox, said Trump exceeded his authority with the order and people are well within their rights to challenge it in court, probably to the highest in the land.

"I have no doubt that it will go to the Supreme Court," Feinstein said.

Trump criticized Robart in a series of tweets, including this one: "The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!"

The president also predicted ultimate vindication in the courts, telling reporters late Saturday that "we'll win; for the safety of the country, we'll win."

In a Super Bowl Sunday interview with Fox News, Trump said his initial travel order held up only 109 people at airports, and "all we did was vet those people very, very carefully."

That figure is incorrect and refers only to people traveling at the time Trump signed the order on Jan. 27; the Department of Homeland Security reported that at least 940 people were denied boarding airplanes during that first weekend the order was in force.

Critics condemned Trump's criticism of the judge, and some Democratic senators said it should be an issue during confirmation hearings for the president's new Supreme Court nominee, appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Trump's attack on Robart "shows a disdain for the independent judiciary" that will be explored during hearings, and Gorsuch's "ability to be an independent check will be front and center throughout the confirmation process.”

Republicans also criticized Trump's use of the term "so-called" in criticizing the judge.

"I think it is best not to single out judges for criticism," said the Senate's top Republican — Mitch McConnell of Kentucky — on CNN's State of the Union.

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., told ABC's This Week that "we don't have any so-called judges, we have real judges."

That said, Republicans predicted Gorsuch's confirmation and that the Robart attack would not be a factor.

Pence said Trump isn't challenging the judge's legitimacy, only his ruling. The vice president told CBS' Face The Nation that "every president has a right to be critical of the other branches of the federal government."

In defending the Trump travel order, Pence said it is designed to block entry from countries that have been "compromised by terror." Seven nations are singled out: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Citing the president's authority to protect national security, Pence told Fox News: "We believe the judge made the wrong decision."

USA TODAY


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