Trump's Power on Immigration is 'Beyond Question,' Adviser Says

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Senior White House Adviser Stephen Miller waits to go on the air in the White House Briefing Room in Washington, February 12. Joshua Roberts/Reuters

A senior adviser to the president continued Donald Trump's attacks on the judiciary over his suspended travel ban while declining to indicate what legal strategy the administration will pursue to enforce the president's executive order.

Stephen Miller, senior policy adviser to Trump, called the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on the president's ban on Syrian refugees and travel from seven Muslim-majority countries a "judicial usurpation" of Trump's power and a "violation of judges' proper roles in litigating disputes" in an appearance on "Fox News Sunday" with Chris Wallace. While reiterating many comments made by the president himself on the Ninth Circuit's ruling, Miller defended the president's repeated criticisms of District Court Judge James Robart, who issued the initial ruling staying the travel ban. "Statements that you can’t criticize a judge demonstrate a profound misunderstanding of what it means to have separate and equal branches. Of course, one branch can criticize another branch of government," Miller said.

 

Trump's order, which he has claimed is necessary for national security, remains unenforced nationwide, while separate legal challenges to the directive proceed in multiple jurisdictions. The administration has wavered when asked its next steps, and Miller said Sunday that all options are open. 

"Those options include seeking an emergency stay with the Supreme Court, continuing the appeal with the panel, having an emergency hearing en banc, or going to the trial court in the district level and a trial on the merits. They also include...the possibility of new executive actions designed to prevent terrorist infiltration of our country," Miller said.

Should the suit go to trial, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said on ABC's "This Week" that he'll use "every tool" at his disposal to uncover "what truly motivated" the president's directive.

Miller also supported the Justice Department argument that Trump—and Trump alone—has the power to change immigration regulations, without review by the court system.

"The president's powers here are beyond question," Miller said. "The bottom line is the president's powers, in this area, represent the apex of executive authority," he said in a separate appearance on ABC's "This Week." The Ninth Circuit emphatically rejected that argument, finding that, "There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewability, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy."

In his appearances, Miller repeatedly cited Article 2 of the Constitution and immigration law to argue the "president has the authority to impose moderate, necessary and sensible restrictions, including putting in place new vetting procedures to protect this country. That power was delegated to him explicitly by Congress, and adheres to him under its Article 2 powers under the U.S. Constitution." However, he doesn't mention the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which forbids restrictive policies based on race, sex, nationality or place of birth or residence. 

"This is a judicial usurpation of the power.  It is a violation of judges’ proper roles in litigating disputes.  We will fight it," Miller said.

"In the end, the powers of the president of the United States will be reaffirmed, and the whole world will see clearly and unmistakably...that this country will protect its borders."

The president was pleased with Miller's defense of the administration. "Congratulations Stephen Miller- on representing me this morning on the various Sunday morning shows. Great job!," Trump tweeted Sunday morning.