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Trump loses at court – so far
President Trump fought the law and the law won – so far.
The battle over Trump's executive order on immigration and refugees has handed the president the most significant setback of his young administration. The White House is trying to find a path forward after two legal defeats but even some Republicans say the damage has already been done.
The problem, they say, is that the whole saga buttresses existing negative perceptions of the Trump administration: that the White House is too impetuous, too in thrall with the idea of breaking with "business as usual," and too blind to the pitfalls that might dot their preferred path on any given issue.
Dan Judy, a GOP strategist whose firm worked for the presidential campaign of Trump's primary rival Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) last year, noted that Republicans on Capitol Hill "have been watching this administration very carefully. Many of them were not supporters of his in the primaries, were lukewarm in the general election, and they have been watching and hoping that things would go well."
So far, Judy said, what they've seen leaves something to be desired.
The rollout of the travel ban rejected this week in court "does not create a lot of confidence among Republicans on Capitol Hill, in Washington or around the country," he said.
"Most of that [concern] is less on the policy – though there are certainly plenty of worries about the broadness of it – but more about the haphazard and slapdash way it was conceived and rolled out."
Similar concerns were raised by senior Republican lawmakers soon after Trump signed the executive order in the first place. In a joint statement, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) asserted that the "confusion at our airports" made clear that the order "was not properly vetted."
Other Republicans – including Sens. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Susan Collins (Maine), Ben Sasse (Neb.) and Dean Heller (Nev.) – raised concerns about the broadness of the language or the uncertainty over how it affected legal permanent residents.
Then there was the stinging rebuke delivered by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday, when it refused to lift the suspension of the ban. The decision of the three appellate court judges was unanimous and stated, among other things, that suggestions that the order discriminated against Muslims raised "serious allegations and present[ed] significant constitutional questions."
Exactly what happens next is a little unclear.
Initially on Friday, it seemed that the Trump administration had come to a belated recognition that both the roll-out of the order and its vulnerability to legal challenge were flawed.
Multiple reports on Friday evening stated that the administration would not go to the Supreme Court to try to get the temporary restraining order on the ban lifted. But then White House chief of staff Reince Preibus said no decision had been made.
A new order could be coming.
The president told reporters during a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that "we'll be doing something very rapidly having to do with additional security for our country" and that details would be revealed next week.
But even if that happens and if the new order proves legally enforceable – two substantial "ifs" – the political damage will not necessarily be undone..
"Certainly there is an awareness that things have not operated the way people would have liked to have seen them," said veteran GOP pollster David Winston. "There was some confusion and unhappiness in terms of the implementation. You saw them take steps to correct that – but it's the fact that they had to take those steps [which is the problem]."
Nevertheless, Winston was among the sources who told The Hill that it would be easy to jump to too negative an assumption about what the furor would do to Trump's popularity. Several Republicans noted, with varying degrees of vigor, that the basics of the executive order had been relatively popular with voters in the recent past.
New Jersey Republican Steve Lonegan, a Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) supporter in last year's GOP presidential primary, argued that, while the rollout was imperfect, voters are not all that concerned with "this insider crap that Washington types believe Americans think about every day."
Lonegan added, "All the naysayers want to be looking for weakness in what Trump does. Most of the Americans I talk to really are tired of this."
There are clear signs that the controversy has dented the public standing of the underlying policy. A Quinnipiac University poll conducted in recent days asked respondents whether they supported or opposed "suspending immigration from 'terror prone' regions, even if it means turning away refugees from those regions?"
Fifty percent of adults disapproved of that idea, while 44 percent approved. The results had been the exact opposite when the same pollsters asked the same question in mid-November, just after Trump's election win.
Some Republicans believe those figures could flip yet again if the administration corrects its course. And others contend that some of the fiercest criticism is mounted on a false pretext.
Hogan Gidley, a Republican strategist who has worked on past presidential campaigns by former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said of Trump, "He could have spoken to every single senator, every single congressman, every agency head, media staffer and media outlet – and Donald Trump would still get blowback from the people who don't like him and don't want to accept that he is President of the United States."
But others, such as Dan Judy, are insistent that the president and his aides need to realize they erred.
"The most important thing is that they learn lessons from this," he said. "If they do, future problems can be avoided. If they don't, it is going to be one thing after another."
[Source: By Niall Stanage, The Memo, The Hill, Washington, 11Feb17]
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