U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was under fire Thursday for comments about Hawaii and the federal judge who halted President Trump’s travel ban.
In media reports, Sessions is characterized as dismissively referring to Hawaii as “an island in the Pacific.” In an interview on “The Mark Levin Show” Tuesday evening, Sessions says:
“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.”
Hawaii federal Judge Derrick Watson issued an order last month that blocked the ban on travelers from several Muslim-majority countries. The Department of Justice is currently appealing the decision.
Hawaii’s two U.S. senators were harsh in their responses, particularly on Twitter.
Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii, tweeted: “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;” and ” Hawaii was built on the strength of diversity & immigrant experiences – including my own. Jeff Sessions’ comments are ignorant & dangerous.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, tweeted: “Mr. Attorney General: You voted for that judge. And that island is called Oahu. It’s my home. Have some respect.”
Hirono also slammed Sessions in a statement: “The suggestion that being from Hawaii somehow disqualifies Judge Watson from performing his Constitutional duty is dangerous, ignorant, and prejudiced. I am frankly dumbfounded that our nation’s top lawyer would attack our independent judiciary. But we shouldn’t be surprised. This is just the latest in the Trump Administration’s attacks against the very tenets of our Constitution and democracy.”
According to CNN, Justice Department spokesperson Ian D. Prior clarified Sessions’ remarks in a statement: ”Hawaii is, in fact, an island in the Pacific — a beautiful one where the Attorney General’s granddaughter was born,” he said. “The point, however, is that there is a problem when a flawed opinion by a single judge can block the President’s lawful exercise of authority to keep the entire country safe.”
Late this afternoon, Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin expressed disappointment with Sessions.
“President Trump previously called a federal judge in California a so-called judge,” Chin said in a statement. “Now U.S. Attorney General Sessions appears to dismiss a federal judge in Hawaii as just a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific. Our Constitution created a separation of powers in the United States for a reason. Our federal courts, established under article III of the Constitution, are co-equal partners with Congress and the President. It is disappointing AG Sessions does not acknowledge that.”