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Jay Inslee says Trump intimidation of judge goes beyond Nixon

(AP file photo)
LISTEN: Gov. Jay Inslee on Trump's travel ban

When President Donald Trump called a Washington judge a “so-called judge” he stepped on a “fundamental tenant of American democracy,” according to Washington Governor Jay Inslee. But KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson challenged the governor on Monday.

Related: State AG disappointed in Trump’s flippant reaction to ruling

Trump’s travel ban for seven predominantly Muslim countries has been the source of controversy since it was signed on Jan. 27, bringing about a lawsuit by Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson. The lawsuit states the ban was unconstitutional. It was upheld, stopping the ban. Federal appeals court Judge James Robart then rejected a request by the White House to immediately restore the ban.
Judge Robart, who was appointed to Federal District Court in Seattle by President George W. Bush, received flack from Trump on Saturday, with the President tweeting: “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!”

Inslee told Dori that the courts have ruled that there is no evidence of an increased security threat to issue such a ban. He said the court, thus far, has agreed that the president has overstepped his bounds. And the president’s comments, Inslee said, are reminiscent of a not-so-popular regime.

“I think it’s very disappointing that a president would attack [a judge individually] and call him a so-called judge,” Inslee said. “Look, this is dangerous, this is Putin-esque. That’s what they do in Russia. Putin goes after judges.”

However, Dori asked how Inslee’s “so-called judge” comments are any worse than Congressman John Lewis saying he didn’t recognize the President’s legitimacy. Inslee responded that he believes there is a definite difference.

It is a fundamental tenet of American democracy to have a checks and balances system and our country has really succeeded because we’ve had a judicial system that the executive branch and the legislative branch may not agree with but they respect. And they do not try to undermine it, nor do they try to intimidate it politically. I’ve got to tell you, I’m only 65, but no time during my lifetime – even during the Nixon years – have we seen a president who would try to undermine the legitimacy of an individual judge, to intimidate him, to strike fear in him, if you will. That has not happened in America and the reason it hasn’t happened is the people realize it is a risk to the very fundamentals of the checks and balances system we have. It is totally fair for a president to criticize a decision by a federal judge; that is totally understandable. But you do not, and we should not normalize the conduct of this president to try to attack an individual judge just because he lost, which he did. That’s unacceptable and we need to call him on it.”

To that, Dori countered: “Equally cherished is our elections. And for John Lewis to attack Donald Trump just because he lost, he is also attacking an equally cherished and important part of our history. And, frankly, in your 65 years, you’ve never seen a member of Congress call the president illegitimate before…

Inslee: “Oh no, I just sat on the House floor while a Republican Joe Wilson, screamed at Barack Obama during his State of the Union, “you lie.” So, Dori, I’ve seen a lot of things in my time and I’m not going to tell you what John Lewis thinks, but here’s what I think, this man was president because of the electoral college, in some sense he got 3 million votes less – he can’t get over that fact – but to some degree, it’s irrelevant, he’s president. But we need a president who will respect the judicial decisions.”

Dori: “And we need a Congress who will respect the president.”

Inslee: “Ah, yes. You can call John Lewis, he will talk to you about his thoughts.”

You can listen to the rest of Dori and Inslee continued their back-and-forth on the travel ban below, but here are a few of the highlights:

On why Inslee proposed enhanced background checks for Washington gun owners, while rejecting the checks on travelers from countries identified as harboring terrorist supporters: “We didn’t propose any additional types of background checks. All we said was if you get a background check to buy a handgun, it sure doesn’t make any sense that you don’t get a background check to buy an assault rifle. That’s all we’re doing here, is plugging a loophole. It just makes no sense if we think it’s appropriate – and voters said vote to say it is appropriate to have a background check to close the loophole for handguns – you can’t make any case that assault weapons are less dangerous than pistols, so that’s all that happened. But, fundamentally, if you look at this executive order, this is not about sort of increasing the type of vetting that’s done on these folks, that’s not what this is. This is an absolute ban on Muslims that come from these seven countries. I do believe that it is not helpful to our national security, there have been many national security experts that basically say that this could hurt our national security by making it more difficult to have an alliance with Muslim countries that we’re fighting terrorism on and makes the job of our soldiers for JBLM more difficult to maintain their alliance with Muslim fighters for the Iraqi government fighting ISIS. There is no evidence that the folks from these seven countries have been involved in terrorism activities, which is pretty impressive to me.”

Related: Hutchison says lawsuit against Trump’s order is just for attention

Why not be proactive about a refugee ban, considering the issues in Berlin and Paris: “Well, they haven’t proposed any additional vetting. I think the fact that we have prevented these attacks in our country does demonstrate the effectiveness of our vetting programs, and it is very extensive. The people arriving in our airports now – guy who is married to an American citizen; shipped out of the country by the president with no notice… These folks go through multiple years vetting process and I think the fact that we have not seen that type of incident from this group is demonstrative of the fact that our current, very extensive intelligence gathering has been successful.”

On whether the Obama administration was wrong to identify the seven countries as prime sponsors of worldwide terrorism: “I don’t know the answer to that. I just don’t know because I hadn’t really thought about that at the time, so I can’t give an answer to that, but it is wrong to shut down the ability of Expedia, they have a thousand reservations of people coming to our state to do business, to do research.”

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