stall

Jeff Sessions Marvels At How A Judge ‘On An Island In The Pacific’ Could Stall Travel Ban

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/jeff-sessions-judge-island-travel-ban_us_58f91582e4b00fa7de1292d1

 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions expressed skepticism that a federal judge who serves in Hawaii had the power to block President Donald Trump’s retooled travel ban, which has been stuck in the courts since last month.

 

“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,” Sessions told “The Mark Levin Show,” a conservative talk show, earlier this week, according to a report by CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski.

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson, a Hawaii native, issued an order March 15 that put a stop to important aspects of Trump’s second travel ban. That order, which applies nationwide, is being challenged by Sessions’ Department of Justice before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco. A Virginia-based court is considering a separate Justice Department appeal to a Maryland ruling against the travel ban

The night Watson issued his ruling, Trump complained to a booing audience in Tennessee that the judge’s ruling was “flawed” and that it “makes us look weak.” Watson has reportedly been the subject of threats for ruling against the president’s executive order, which would limit travel to the U.S. from six Muslim-majority countries and halt refugee resettlement programs.

The two senators from Hawaii, both Democrats, reacted strongly to Sessions’ comment. Sen. Mazie Hirono likened his remarks about Watson to “dog whistle politics.”

Mr. Attorney General: You voted for that judge. And that island is called Oahu. It’s my home. Have some respect. https://twitter.com/ianbremmer/status/855131597577834496 

Hey Jeff Sessions, this has been the 50th state for going on 58 years. And we won’t succumb to your dog whistle politics

In a statement later Thursday, Hirono, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee that vets and confirms federal judges, called Sessions’ suggestion that Watson is somehow unable to carry out his duties impartially “dangerous, ignorant, and prejudiced.”

“I am frankly dumbfounded that our nation’s top lawyer would attack our independent judiciary,” she said. “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.”

Hawaii’s attorney general, Doug Chin, whose state led the charge against the second travel ban in federal court, blasted Sessions over his apparent disregard for the separation of powers.

 

“Our federal courts, established under article III of the Constitution, are co-equal partners with Congress and the President,” Chin said in a statement late Thursday. “It is disappointing AG Sessions does not acknowledge that.”

 

A Justice Department spokesman tried to mitigate Sessions’ comments.

“Hawaii is, in fact, an island in the Pacific — a beautiful one where the Attorney General’s granddaughter was born,” Ian D. Prior said in an email to The Huffington Post on Thursday. “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.”

 

Trump’s swipes against the federal judiciary since taking office have alarmed court watchers and the public. Even Justice Neil Gorsuch faced a tough round of grilling in confirmation hearings last month from senators asking about the president’s outbursts. The then-nominee declined to call Trump out by name, saying that he couldn’t get into politics.

 

Trump and his surrogates’ openly anti-Muslim sentiments have haunted his executive orders in the courts. In his ruling, Watson found that the second travel ban — which was crafted to correct deep flaws courts found with the first one — was likely unconstitutional because it was implemented with the intent to target members of a particular religion.

 

In the Levin interview, Sessions said that judges shouldn’t “psychoanalyze” Trump’s motives and instead look at the national security rationale behind it.

Ryan J. Reilly contributed reporting.

This story has been updated to include Chin’s statement.

Advertisements

As BDS resolutions stall, pro-Palestinian students shift tactics

NEW YORK (JTA) — When  Northwestern University’s student Senate passed a resolution in February 2015 asking the university to divest from six corporations they said contributed to the violation of Palestinians’ human rights, freshman Ross Krasner was hurt and surprised.

The rhetoric of the measure, portraying Israel as an oppressor, was more extreme than what he had expected. Krasner decided to become more involved with the campus pro-Israel group, Wildcats for Israel, and became its president that May.

A year and a half later, he feels confident the university won’t heed the resolution’s divestment call, and Krasner has shifted his extracurricular focus on campus — serving as a student senator, a forum where he can advocate for a range of causes he supports, including but not limited to Israel.

“We knew the whole time the university wasn’t going to divest,” said Krasner, now a junior. “Because it passed, it’s never going to be brought up again.” Anti-Israel activists, he said, have “lost their rallying cry. They’ve lost their thing to mobilize around.”

The vote by Northwestern’s Associated Student Government Senate was one of three huge campus victories scored by the BDS movement — which aims to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel — within two weeks in February 2015. It was preceded by similar votes in the University of California Student Association, representing all U.C. students across the state, and in Stanford University’s Undergraduate Senate.

But nearly two years after the BDS three-peat, the wave seems to have receded. Of about a dozen BDS resolutions passed since November 2015, only two or three have come at major universities. A BDS resolution at the University of Michigan failed three weeks ago.

Perhaps most significant, not one university has actually divested from Israel or companies targeted for doing business in the West Bank. After its College Council passed a divestment resolution in April, the University of Chicago released a statement saying an Israel boycott “would only diminish the University’s distinctive contribution.”

Hillel International President Eric Fingerhut told JTA that the organization has reached out personally to university presidents to lobby them against BDS and has found open ears.

“We have been in touch with university leaders, trustees and administrators to help them oppose, to help them understand why any kind of academic boycott or divestment would be the wrong thing to do,” he said. “They’ve all agreed with that position.”

Kenneth Waltzer, executive director of the Academic Engagement Network, a 350-member group of university faculty who oppose BDS, said divestment is a nonstarter for many university boards of trustees because it would violate their commitment to invest funds in a way that would best serve the school. There is not enough consensus on divestment, he said, for it to override concerns of fiduciary responsibility.

“University presidents are responsible,” said Waltzer, an emeritus history professor at Michigan State University. “Students can get as excited as they want for a particular issue. They don’t have a responsibility for where it goes. Do we want to cut off all our ties with Israel? It’s a much more complicated issue.”

National pro-Israel groups have invested millions of dollars in fighting BDS since 2010. In June 2015, Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul, Jewish philanthropist and Republican megadonor, raised a reported $20 million at a summit launching a new group to fight BDS on campus. That same month, the Israeli government pledgedsome $25 million in anti-BDS funding over 10 years. In soliciting the money, leaders of national organizations portrayed BDS movements as the central threat to Israel on campus.

Pro-Israel groups now believe the threat has shifted as BDS has failed to make concrete gains in terms of divestment. They say that anti-Israel groups have pivoted from pushing divestment resolutions to protesting, and in some cases disrupting, pro-Israel events and speakers on campus.

But Ben Lorber, campus coordinator for the pro-BDS Jewish Voice for Peace, said divestment resolutions and protests at events serve the same purpose: sparking conversation about Palestinian rights. He predicted that BDS resolutions would re-emerge next semester with the approach of the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War between Israel and Arab states, as a result of which the West Bank came under Israeli control.

“The larger goal is to educate the community as a whole,” Lorber said. “Divestment is so effective because it gets the whole campus talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and looking into these issues. Students are continuing to exercise their free-speech rights to protest injustice on campus and in the world around them.”

Wendel Rubinstein, a 2016 University of Chicago graduate who campaigned for divestment, said that BDS activism may have scaled back as students — especially following the election of Donald Trump — are refocusing their efforts on demonstrating on behalf of immigrants and vulnerable minorities.

“I think what students have been focused on this year, especially in light of the election results, is building coalitions and solidarity,” Rubinstein said. “There’s not an actual campaign to push a specific initiative right now” on pressuring the university to divest from Israel.

Last month, more than a year and a half after its student divestment vote, Northwestern announced the establishment of an Advisory Committee on Investment Responsibility. The committee will advise the university on how to vote at shareholder meetings, and will include four student representatives among its 10 voting members.

Krasner is concerned that anti-Israel students will be appointed to the committee, but still isn’t worried that his school will divest from Israel. More troubling to him is the marginalizing of pro-Israel students in campus social justice movements — something he has experienced.

Last year, when students at the University of Missouri were protesting issues of racial injustice on their campus, Krasner co-wrote a resolution supporting the protests as a Northwestern student senator. But he was pressured to withdraw his name from the resolution, he said, after a senator supporting the campus African-American student group, as well as the campus Students for Justice in Palestine, objected to his pro-Israel activism.

Krasner called the incident “a very hurtful thing that happened to me.”

“I’m constantly learning about what it means to be an ally to marginalized communities,” he said. “As someone who says, ‘No, I don’t support BDS,’ it’s a challenge I wasn’t prepared for coming in.”