More than four months after President Trump's 'travel ban' executive order was halted by a series of lower court decisions, the Supreme Court has weighed in and handed the White House a stirring - if only partial - victory.
The unanimous decision, which allows most of the travel ban to be enforced (for now) with a critical caveat, is not only a political victory for Trump, but a defeat for left-wing courts that seemed more preoccupied with an animus towards the president than interpreting the law.
In its per curium decision released Monday morning, the Supreme Court not only announced that it would hear the full case on the travel ban in October, but that it was also lifting the lower courts' temporary injunctions and allowing the order to be enforced. The caveat: the executive order cannot be applied (at least for now) to foreign nationals who have a “bonafide” relationship with a person (i.e. a family member) or entity (i.e. a university) within the United States.
Still, this is undoubtedly a political win for President Trump, who tweeted “SEE YOU IN COURT” back in February in response to the 9th circuit court of appeals refusing to lift an injunction against the original order.
But it's also a defeat for activist judges who had tried to invent a new legal standard with which to derail President Trump.
From the beginning of the legal battle, it was obvious that the president has authority over national security and immigration issues. Both Congress and the Constitution are explicit on that front. Supreme Court precedent has determined that judges should not try to second-guess the president's motives if the law is facially valid.
The lower courts, however, tossed decades of legal jurisprudence out the window and replaced it with a creative new standard: they analyzed Trump's past campaign statements and his tweets, found them to indicate an animus towards Muslims, and then concluded that the order was thus discriminatory and unconstitutional, all the while ignoring its actual legal merits.
In other words, the text of order didn't matter - it was illegal because it was signed by President Trump.
It was absurd, and even liberal lawyers who opposed the order as a matter of policy admitted this new legal standard would not pass muster. They were right: the Supreme Court, in its per curium opinion, kicked it to the curb.
The Supreme Court acknowledged “the Government’s compelling need to provide for the Nation’s security," wrote that the lower courts had given deference to "foreign nationals abroad who have no connection to the United States at all," and concluded that "the Government’s interest in enforcing [the order], and the Executive’s authority to do so, are undoubtedly at their peak when there is no tie between the foreign national and the United States.”
There was no mention of tweets; no discussion of 'Muslim bans;' not even any reference to Trump himself. Instead, the Supreme Court kept its legal analysis exactly where it should be: whether the executive order is facially legitimate and balancing the executive's authority on national security against the burden on the plaintiffs.
It concluded that, for the most part, the lower courts had gone too far with their temporary injunctions. As one legal observer put it:
The Supreme Court did what the lower court judges would not – treat President Trump like any other President with the “presumption of regularity.” ...the lower courts should take the hint...
With that in mind, today was not only a win for U.S. national security, but a win for legal commonsense.
Editor's note: This article has been updated for clarity.