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Trump Challenges Federal Judge to High Court Duel Over Sanctuary Cities

President’s tweets rekindle battle with Ninth Circuit

President Donald Trump must choose if he wants to be a hardcore anti-establishment president or a smart deal-maker, Allen writes. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump must choose if he wants to be a hardcore anti-establishment president or a smart deal-maker, Allen writes. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump has a message for the federal judge who blocked his executive orders tailored to keep some so-called “sanctuary” cities from receiving federal funds: “See you in the Supreme Court!”

Trump took to Twitter before 7 a.m. Wednesday morning to blast a federal judge in California who on Tuesday issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against provisions in an executive order signed by Trump that is meant to block federal funding for “sanctuary” jurisdictions that decline to assist federal authorities in enforcing immigration laws.

Trump’s order, signed Jan. 25, directed the Justice and Homeland Security departments to “ensure that jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply” with a law mandating communication between local law enforcement officials and federal immigration agents are deemed ineligible for federal grants.

The injunction was handed down by U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick for the Northern District of California, something that was not lost on Trump. Appeals from Orrick’s court go to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the same one that blocked the president’s initial executive order banning entry into the United States by individuals from seven majority Muslim countries.

Trump, in his morning social media blast, deemed both “ridiculous rulings” before issuing his U.S. Supreme Court challenge.

The president then fired off another tweet reigniting his feud with the Ninth Circuit, which he sharply criticized — breaking with precedent of presidents avoiding such harsh direct criticism of the courts while cases are still moving through the system — after it blocked his entry ban order.

He tweeted that the circuit has a “terrible record of being overturned (close to 80%).”

Trump has used this figure in public before, and the fact-checking organization Politifact wrote in February that “Trump’s figure isn’t too far off.”

“Between 2010-15, of all the cases the Supreme Court heard that came from the 9th Circuit, 79 percent were overturned,” according to Politifact. But the organization also noted this: “The Supreme Court generally reverses more cases than it affirms, 70 percent on average, because the cases that it chooses to take on are often disputed among the lower courts, complex and problematic.”

The president accused his critics of “judge shopping!” He also declared the U.S. judicial process a “messy system.” In another tweet, he said the United States is a “very big country” that offers “many choices” of federal courts.

Trump’s social media posts came about 12 hours after White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus vowed that the Trump administration will ultimately win if the case reaches the high court.

Priebus told a group of reporters, including one from Roll Call, in his West Wing office that the California federal court went “bananas” with its Tuesday ruling.

“It’s the Ninth Circuit going bananas,” Priebus told reporters. “It’s clear forum shopping that’s going on in this country,” adding federal agencies should be able to make funding decisions.

“We’re taking action to appeal this,” Trump’s chief of staff added. “You’ll find out soon enough.”

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In an official statement issued just before midnight Tuesday, the White House signaled its intention to appeal — while also blasting the judge.

“This case is yet one more example of egregious overreach by a single, unelected district judge. Today’s ruling undermines faith in our legal system and raises serious questions about circuit shopping,” the White House said. “But we are confident we will ultimately prevail in the Supreme Court, just as we will prevail in our lawful efforts to impose immigration restrictions necessary to keep terrorists out of the United States.”

The White House vowed to “pursue all legal remedies to the sanctuary city threat that imperils our citizens,” while continuing to increase “our efforts to ramp up enforcement to remove the criminal and gang element from our country.”

The White House statement ended with the nationalistic campaign the president used to defeat Democratic foe Hillary Clinton: “Ultimately, this is a fight between sovereignty and open borders, between the rule of law and lawlessness, and between hardworking Americans and those who would undermine their safety and freedom.”

— Dean DeChiaro contributed to this report.

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