Vice President Mike Pence in several Sunday talk show appearances defended President Donald Trump’s executive order barring the entry of refugees and some travelers as legal and also said Trump has a right to criticize a judge who ruled against the ban.
Pence’s remarks came amid a whirlwind weekend of back-and-forth litigation.
“We don’t appoint judges to our district courts to conduct foreign policy or to make decisions about national security,” the vice president said on “Fox News Sunday.” “That authority belongs to the president of the United States.”
After Judge James Robart of the Federal District Court in Seattle ruled Friday night to temporarily and immediately halt the ban, Trump posted a series of tweets on Saturday condemning the judge and his decision as endangering homeland security.
“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” the president wrote.
Trump added later Saturday, “What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.?”
Pence was asked on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” whether Trump was undermining the system of checks and balances.
“The president of the United States has every right to criticize the other two branches of government,” Pence said, adding of Trump’s outspokenness: “I think people find it very refreshing.”
Pence said he believes the administration will prevail in legal challenges. “We’ll win the case on the merits,” he said.
The U.S. Department of Justice on Saturday night had filed an appeal of Robart’s decision and an emergency request to resume the restrictions, which, in part, stop nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries at the border.
Early Sunday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco denied the bid to immediately restore the ban and travelers previously barred from entry were being permitted into the country.
The Justice Department is expected to file a response before Monday afternoon.
Trump signed the executive order on Jan. 27.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) disagreed with Trump’s targeting of Robart. “It’s best not to single out judges for criticism,” McConnell told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “It’s best to avoid criticizing judges individually.”
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (R-Calif.) also said Trump was in the wrong. “It’s one thing to criticize the decision. It’s quite another thing to say a ‘so-called judge,’ ” she told “Meet the Press.”
Pelosi cited a 2011 six-month Iraqi refugee application slowdown under President Barack Obama and said government leaders “always have to subject our vetting to scrutiny to see if it’s working, but that doesn’t mean we institute an unconstitutional, immoral ban on Muslims coming into the country.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told “Meet the Press” that he does not view Trump’s executive order as a Muslim ban, but acknowledged the policy could have been better implemented at the start.
“If this were a Muslim ban, I would be opposing it. It’s not a Muslim ban. It’s not a religious test,” the speaker said. “And so I think the rollout clearly could have been done better. The communication could have been done more clearly.”
Meanwhile on CNN, McConnell said “there’s no equivalency” between actions taken by the United States and Russia, after — in response to Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly’s characterization of Putin as a “killer,” Trump told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly”: “There are a lot of killers ... We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?”
McConnell said: “Putin’s a former KGB agent, he’s a thug,” and added “There’s no equivalency ... America is different.”
Another Republican, Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, similarly said the United States is “not at all” like Putin’s regime.
“Putin is an enemy of freedom of religion, the U.S. celebrates freedom of religion,” Sasse, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told ABC News’ “This Week.” “ ... Putin is an enemy of political dissent, the U.S. celebrates political dissent.”
Pelosi had told NBC, “I want to know what the Russians have on Donald Trump,” calling for an FBI probe into the president’s personal and political connections to the Kremlin.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told Fox News’ Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, “there is great concern, there has been a blizzard of executive orders and memorandum, some vague, some specific, some most probably, unlawful”
“This president has not brought this nation together,” Feinstein said. She said her advice to Trump has been “please, Mr. President, bring this country together. What he’s doing is splitting it apart, more and more and more.”