By VIVIAN SALAMA
Speaking to a group of police chiefs, Trump said his immigration order was “done for the security of our nation.” He quoted from the portion of the immigration law that he said gave him the power to enact the ban, calling it “beautifully written” and saying “a bad high school student would understand this.”
“Courts seem to be so political and it would be so great for our justice system if they would be able to read a statement and do what’s right,” he added. “And that has to do with the security of our country, which is so important.”
Trump’s comments come as the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is weighing the appeal of his executive order on immigration, including a temporary travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries. In a hearing Tuesday, judges on the appeals court challenged the administration’s claim that the ban was motivated by terrorism fears, but also questioned an attorney’s argument that it unconstitutionally targeted Muslims.
Since a lower court judge blocked the order last week, Trump has criticized the decision. He labeled the judge in the case a “so-called judge” and called the ruling “ridiculous.”
Legal experts, Democrats and some Republicans criticized Trump’s remarks as jeopardizing the independence of the judiciary and attempting to use political influence to sway the courts.
Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court joined the criticism Wednesday in a meeting with Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
Blumenthal said Judge Neil Gorsuch described the president’s comments about the judiciary as “demoralizing and disheartening.”
Gorsuch’s confirmation team confirmed the judge’s comments.
In his speech, Trump sought to link his comments about the court battle over his executive order to the law enforcement community in attendance.
“We have to allow you to do your job,” he said. “And we have to give you the weapons that you need, and this is a weapon that you need and they’re trying to take it away from you.”
The president has repeatedly said people are “pouring in” since the ban was put on hold and suggested that blocking the order would be dangerous for U.S. citizens.
Wednesday morning he tweeted, “Big increase in traffic into our country from certain areas, while our people are far more vulnerable, as we wait for what should be EASY D!”
The administration has not provided any information to support his claims.
Customs and Border Protection, the agency in charge of screening people who arrive at U.S. ports, including airports, has not responded to multiple requests to detail how many visa holders from the seven designated countries have been allowed into the United States since a federal judge temporarily blocked the government from implementing the travel ban.
The State Department previously said fewer than 60,000 visas were provisionally revoked after the order was signed and those people would now be allowed to travel to the U.S. Trump’s order banned travel to the U.S. for people from Syria, Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Yemen and Libya. It also suspended the country’s refugee global program.
As of Wednesday afternoon 641 refugees from 13 countries, including five whose citizens were barred from the U.S. under the travel ban, had arrived since a federal judge in Washington ruled against the government.
During his meeting with police leaders, Trump also continued his promises to reduce violence in Chicago, saying that “no one in America should be punished” because of their birthplace. He pledged to provide resources to police departments and promised “zero tolerance” for violence against law enforcement.
Trump also promised to work on combating drug abuse and said there should be resources to deal with a “mental health crisis.”
Hundreds of members of the Major Cities Chiefs Association and Major County Sheriff’s Association were in the standing room crowd, some in uniform but the majority in plain clothes.
They snapped photos with their phones as the president spoke, but clapped sparingly when he asked whether they were in agreement with his views on the immigration ban. His comments about combatting drug abuse and the targeting of police officers drew a more unanimous response from the crowd.
Associated Press writer Catherine Lucey and Alicia Caldwell contributed to this report.