Fact check: No arrests from 7 nations in travel ban? Judge in Seattle was wrong
The federal judge who halted President Donald Trump’s travel ban was wrong in stating that no one from the seven countries targeted in Trump’s order has been arrested for extremism in the United States since the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Just last October, an Iraqi refugee living in Texas pleaded guilty to attempting to provide support to the Islamic State group, accused of taking tactical training and wanting to blow himself up in an act of martyrdom. In November, a Somali refugee injured 11 in a car-and-knife attack at Ohio State University, and he surely would have been arrested had he not been killed by an officer.
The judge, James Robart, was correct in his larger point that the deadliest and most high-profile terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11 — like the Boston Marathon bombings and the shootings in Orlando, Florida, and San Bernardino, California — were committed either by U.S. citizens or by people from countries other than the seven majority-Muslim nations named in Trump’s order.
But he went a step too far at a hearing in Seattle on Friday.
He asked a Justice Department lawyer how many arrests of foreign nationals from the countries have occurred since 9/11. When the lawyer said she didn’t know, Robart answered his own question: “Let me tell, you, the answer to that is none, as best I can tell. You’re here arguing on behalf of someone that says we have to protect the United States from these individuals coming from these countries and there’s no support for that.”
OK, the judge got his facts wrong. However, do you see what is really wrong with the judge’s ruling? It’s plain from the last sentence above in which Judge Robart said: You’re here arguing on behalf of someone that says we have to protect the United States from these individuals coming from these countries and there’s no support for that.
What gives a Federal Judge the right to second guess the President of the United States on matters of national security? How many secret agents work for this judge who can give him access to classified information? How the hell can he possibly know anything about what the President knows?
Trump has taken heat for referring to James Robart as a “so-called judge.” I think Trump has every right to refer to this judge in that manner. It is the judge himself who has earned it by his intrusion into matters that are beyond the scope of his authority.
It doesn’t matter that the judge got the facts wrong because the facts don’t matter in this case. Uh oh, you say. Facts don’t matter?
No, they don’t. Federal Judges simply do not have the jurisdictional authority to interfere with the President on matters of foreign affairs. Even if the judge were right that no arrests from those 7 countries has occurred since 9/11, he still has no jurisdiction over the subject matter before him.
Judges do not have access to the knowledge that the President as commander in chief of the armed forces and with responsiblity for national security has. He does not know nor could he know what information might have been discovered by the National Security Agency, the CIA, the FBI, or any number of other agencies within the executive branch and to which only the President and his closest advisors have access. Often information affecting national security must be kept secret in order for any President to effectively manage what could be a forebodingly dire situation.
If the President had information from the National Security Agency that the Baader-Meinhof gang had reformed in Germany and was planning a trip to the U.S. posing as German tourists but were actually carrying a suit case nuclear device, what limits would there be on the President’s power to deal with such a matter? None, is the answer. At least none that a Federal Court could impose.
If the President makes dumb decisions in matters of national security he will suffer poltically for sure, but he is not subject to second guessing by federal judges who have no access to the same sort of information the president has.