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Report: Trump looks to Supreme Court for big victories in 2019
Phil Roeder / CCL
President Donald Trump is hoping that the Supreme Court will deliver big victories for his administration in 2019, as it did last year on his so-called “travel ban,” according to USA Today.
With two conservative justices hand-picked by Trump now sitting on the highest court, the president is looking to the Supreme Court to overturn lower court injunctions against the White House on issues ranging from immigration to bans on transgender individuals in the military.
Counting on SCOTUS
Immigration will weigh heavily on the high court’s agenda, with the justices slated to hear arguments this year on Trump’s desire to include questions about citizenship in the 2020 census and to pull funding from “sanctuary cities” that refuse to cooperate with immigration enforcement, as well as on Trump’s previously blocked “asylum ban.” The Justice Department has also asked the court to weigh in on Trump’s ban on transgenders in the military, which could get a decision this month.
Trump has suffered judicial defeats in recent months, with federal courts ordering him to reinstate CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s White House press pass after it was revoked and federal judges issuing various nationwide blocks on Trump’s executive orders to restore order to a broken immigration system. A federal “Obama judge” blocked the president’s asylum ban on migrants who have entered the country illegally last year, and Trump has been similarly overruled by “activist judges” on his decision to repeal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), his policy on “sanctuary cities,” and his proposed ban on transgender individuals joining the military.
The Supreme Court will decide Friday whether to take up the DACA case and could render a decision by June, as some expect that the addition of freshman Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the court will help Trump reverse his lower court defeats. Meanwhile, the Justice Department is making an aggressive push to skip the normal appeals process and bring key cases before the high court as quickly as possible.
“They probably have a better chance at the Supreme Court than at the lower courts,” said Ilya Somin, a law professor at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School. Indeed, Trump was vindicated last year when the Supreme Court struck down an effort by lower courts to one-sidedly block his “travel ban.”
But in some of the court’s first cases of the new term late last year, the conservative majority signaled that it would not necessarily vote with Trump’s agenda. The SCOTUS declined to intervene last month in the ruling against President Trump’s asylum ban, with Chief Justice John Roberts providing the key vote to knock back the case after a squabble with Trump in November over whether the judiciary has partisan judges.
The court could have another look at the asylum ban this year, but whether it votes to further Trump’s agenda remains to be seen, as some speculate that Roberts — seen by many as the likely new swing vote after the retirement of liberal Anthony Kennedy — will feel pressured to uphold the court’s reputation for integrity by striking down hard-line conservative policies, a tendency he has already shown in the court’s early-term cases.
On the plus side, Kavanaugh and fellow Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch sided with Trump on the asylum ban, but Kavanaugh voted with his liberal colleagues in declining to take up a separate case on Planned Parenthood, upsetting hard-liner Clarence Thomas.
Still, Trump is eager to flex the high court’s power to deliver on his agenda, although his political squabble with Roberts showed that actually putting the court’s new conservative power to use may be a challenge. The left has mounted an attack on the court’s so-called credibility in an effort to retain some control of the court now that it stands poised to strike down liberal precedents, and there are already signs that conservative judges including Roberts may respond to that pressure by caving to the left.
But there is still hope for the president, who has decried the unilateral action of “activist judges” who instate nationwide blocks on his executive orders. Trump’s complaints found sympathy in August when an appeals court rebuked lower courts for instating nationwide injunctions against the White House, even as it ruled against Trump’s sanctuary city policy.
Justice Thomas even floated the possibility while weighing Trump’s “travel ban” in June of taking away the power of lower court judges to take that kind of one-sided action.
Indeed, the Supreme Court’s upcoming agenda could be viewed by those on the left as a referendum on a president pushing the boundaries of his power — but to conservatives eager to see justice in this country, it’s an opportunity to restore checks and balances to a court system where politically motivated judges overrule the White House with impunity.
Simply put: it’s showtime.
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