Trump's Travel Ban Tweets Could Hurt Him in Court

June 5th 2017

Kyle Jaeger

On Monday morning, the president fired off four tweets in quick succession that could put his travel ban in further legal jeopardy.


The executive order on immigration, which Donald Trump signed in January, has been repeatedly challenged in district and federal appeals courts—leading the administration to revise the ban in March. That revised version was most recently contested in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, where an order blocking the ban was upheld on May 25.

Trump's tweets underscored several of the legal concerns cited by judges who ruled against the executive order.

1. Make no mistake about it—the executive order is a "travel ban."

The language around Trump's executive order has been a point of interest in courts reviewing the case. Though administration officials, such as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, have attempted to brand the "travel ban" as a vetting system, the president left no room for interpretation on Monday. 

"People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!" Trump wrote in a tweet.

Courts have used past statements by Trump and his campaign advisors to determine whether the executive order is discriminatory in nature, rather than an unbiased national security protocol. Affirming that the order is, in fact, a ban could be a boon for Trump's challengers, as the ACLU suggested.

2. The revised executive order is a "watered down, politically correct" version of the original order.

After the original executive order — which temporarily barred immigration from seven Muslim majority countries and suspended the U.S. refugee program — was blocked in the 9th Circuit of Appeals, the Trump administration made changes that were designed to address constitutional concerns raised by the federal court. Those changes included removing one country—Iraq—from the list and exempting legal permanent residents from the ban.

Trump criticized those amendments on Monday, calling the revised order "watered down" and "politically correct." He said the Justice Department should have stuck with the original version, in spite of the appeals court rulings that the original likely violated constitutional protections against religious discrimination.

3. Trump wants a "tougher version" of the travel ban after the Supreme Court rules on the current order.

The president wrote that the Justice Department to pursue an "expedited hearing" for the revised travel ban in the Supreme Court—and that afterwards, the department should "seek much tougher version." As Jon Michaels, a law professor at UCLA, told ATTN:,that tweet in particular could come back to hurt him if the court does decide to take the case up next week,

"He's in a way conceding that his motives haven’t really changed from the first to the second ban and he doesn't want his true purpose to be lost amid efforts to make the travel ban seem more [politically correct]," Michaels said. .

4. The U.S. already has "extreme vetting" mechanisms in place for immigrants.

With this, Trump conceded that the U.S. already has a rigorous vetting system in place for prospective immigrants. That seems to undermine his legal team's chief argument for the travel ban: that it would be an essential national security tool.

The extent to which Trump's tweets and statements could influence the Supreme Court's expected ruling on the travel ban is uncertain.

But what we do know is that the president's public comments has already been used against the administration in lower courts, and legal experts—including lawyer Neal Katyal, who fought the ban in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals—seem confident that Monday's tweet storm will also be subject to scrutiny in Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court hasn't accepted the Trump administration's challenge to the 4th Circuit's ruling yet, but the Justice Department filed three petitions for a hearing last week—imploring the court to decide whether or not they will hear the case before they break for summer.