Trump: Blame Judge Robart if 'Something Happens'

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President Donald Trump pauses as he talks to journalists on board Air Force One during his flight to Palm Beach, Florida, February 3. Carlos Barria/Reuters

President Donald Trump on Sunday ramped up his criticism of a federal judge who blocked a travel ban on seven mainly Muslim nations and said courts were making U.S. border security harder, intensifying the first major legal battle of his presidency.

In a series of tweets that broadened his attack on the country's judiciary, Trump said Americans should blame U.S. District Judge James Robart and the court system if anything happened.

Trump did not elaborate on what threats the country potentially faced. He added that he had told the Department of Homeland Security to "check people coming into our country VERY CAREFULLY. The courts are making the job very difficult!" He added that he, "Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!"

The Republican president labeled Robart a "so-called judge" on Saturday, a day after the Seattle jurist issued a temporary restraining order that prevented enforcement of a 90-day ban on citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and a 120-day bar on all refugees. A U.S. appeals court later on Saturday denied the government's request for an immediate stay of the ruling.

Vice President Mike Pence defended Trump earlier on Sunday, even as some Republicans encouraged the businessman-turned-politician to tone down his broadsides against the judicial branch of government.

"The president of the United States has every right to criticize the other two branches of government," Pence said on NBC's "Meet the Press" program.

The ruling by Robart, appointed by former Republican President George W. Bush, coupled with the decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to deny the government's request for an immediate stay of the ruling dealt a blow to Trump barely two weeks into his presidency.

It could also be the precursor to months of legal challenges to his push to clamp down on immigration, including through the construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border, and complicate the confirmation battle of his U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

The Senate's top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, said on Saturday that Gorsuch, a conservative federal appeals court judge from Colorado, must meet a higher bar to show his independence from the president.

Trump, who during his presidential campaign called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States, has vowed to reinstate his controversial travel ban. He says the measures are needed to protect the United States from Islamist militants. Critics say they are unjustified and discriminatory.

The legal limbo will prevail at least until the federal appeals court rules on the government's application for an emergency stay of Robart's ruling. The court was awaiting further submissions from the states of Washington and Minnesota on Sunday, and from the federal government on Monday.