Trump shoots first, asks questions later

By Edridge D'Souza

Raven Childs/Flickr
(Raven Childs/Flickr)

The recent immigration ban has been anything but organized. The executive order was rolled out last Friday, and was immediately met with strong backlash and opposition. Aside from whether or not the action was morally or constitutionally justified, a decent portion of the problem is that the Trump team put in a minimal amount of effort in crafting the order, and paid little regard to the domestic and international consequences of it.

Take, for example, the debacle about green card holders. The Department of Homeland Security initially judged that the ban extends to any people from the predominately Islamic countries of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, regardless of whether or not they held a green card. A day later, after much chaos, Reince Priebus backtracked on that position, claiming that green card holders would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

The travel ban was developed primarily by Steve Bannon, whom Trump recently promoted to the National Security Council. On the campaign trail, Trump had explicitly called for a “Muslim ban,” although now his administration has softened this claim to simply a country-specific travel ban, and is complaining that it’s being described as a Muslim ban.

According to Trump surrogate and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, the executive order reached its current form when Trump reached out to his team to find a legal way to carry out a Muslim ban. “What we did was focused on, instead of religion, danger,” Giuliani said on Fox News on Saturday. As Vox columnist Dara Lind notes, “[The government is] essentially going to have to argue that even though the president wanted to violate the Constitution, he was successfully prevented from doing so. That’s a trickier argument than just saying he wasn’t trying to violate the Constitution at all.”

In other words, the Trump administration’s best defense of the law against claims of unconstitutionality is that they wanted to violate the letter of the law, but settled for only violating it in spirit. This is a peculiar line of reasoning that the administration will no doubt have to defend in court. A federal judge in New York issued a stay, blocking parts of the immigration ban. Members of the American Civil Liberties Union have filed a suit against the Trump administration on the basis that such an executive order is an unconstitutional overreach.

In short, it seems the Trump administration’s planning of this entire ordeal has been just like his entire campaign: haphazard, controversial and poorly planned. And yet, there’s still the chance that he’ll get his way.

The executive order has been criticized by virtually every democratic member of Congress and twenty Republicans. Foremost in the Republican opposition are Senators Lindsey Graham and former Republican nominee John McCain, who issued a joint statement claiming that the travel ban will become a “self-inflicted wound” that will only galvanize terrorists while making Americans less safe. Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, from the House Liberty Caucus, has also criticized the ban, calling it an unconstitutional overreach.

As in the past, Trump is enormously unpopular among Democrats, and has unprecedented opposition from his own party too. While most Republicans are choosing to remain silent, a growing number are speaking out against him. And it’s only been one week.

Trump’s approach differs markedly from Obama’s. Whereas Obama and prior presidents took a traditional approach of carefully examining and vetting executive policies before implementing them, Trump seems to be hoping to shoot first and ask questions later. It’s a strategy that is volatile, unpredictable and very likely dangerous, not only to the American people but also to himself and his party. According to former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, congressional Republicans will keep Trump along for as long as it takes to pass their preferred agendas, and then inevitably go for the impeachment option.

It’s unclear how exactly this will play out, in both the short and long terms. Currently, there is fierce opposition from all sides. Organizations like the ACLU are pledging to ramp up their opposition to this upcoming administration, and there’s no foreseeable end to it as of yet. For now, we will have to wait and see how this plays out in court.

Edridge D’Souza is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].