Judges don’t usually write opinions personally attacking the integrity of the president of the United States. But in a highly unusually decision this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit rebuked President Trump personally, ruling that he wrote a bigoted Muslim ban that was not in “good faith” and violates the First Amendment.
The court, in a 10-3 decision, began its first paragraph saying that Trump’s executive order “drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination” towards Muslims.
Government lawyers argued that Trump wrote his revised immigration ban restricting immigrants and refugees from several predominately Muslim countries in a “bona fide” (good faith) effort to protect national security, not based on religious intolerance. The Justice Department lawyers also urged the court to disregard Trump’s public promises to “ban” Muslim immigrants and refugees both during his campaign and after his election.
The judges in the majority flatly rejected the government’s arguments, saying they were unable “to awake without the vivid memory of [Trump’s] statements” and could not “shut our eyes to such evidence when it stares us in the face, for ‘there’s none so blind as they that won’t see.'”
The quote is from author Jonathan Swift’s 18th century work, “Polite Conversation.” That would be the same Swift best known for his satirical “Modest Proposal” for the rich to eat the poor rather than help them.
The court bluntly concluded that “national security is not the true reason for” Trump’s executive order and that the true reason was religious bias.
The court pointed to “then-candidate Trump’s numerous campaign statements expressing animus towards the Islamic faith,” “his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States,” his statement that the executive order “targeted certain majority-Muslim nations and included a preference for religious minorities,” and Rudy Giuiliani’s public “statement that the president had asked him to find a way to ban Muslims in a legal way.”
“Based on this evidence,” the court concluded that Trump’s executive order’s “stated national security interest was provided in bad faith, as a pretext for its religious purpose.”
Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman wrote an opinion piece published by Bloomberg, titled “Court Essentially Says Trump Lied About Travel Ban.”
Feldman said it was “extraordinary for a federal court to tell the president directly that he’s lying; I certainly can’t think of any other examples in my lifetime.”
The appeals court decision was written by Chief Judge Roger Gregory, who was appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton in a recess appointment and re-appointed by Republican President George W. Bush.