“I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power,” Sessions told radio host Mark Levin on Wednesday, as first reported by CNN.
Sessions, a Republican, was referring to U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson’s decision in March to block a revised version of the Trump administration’s travel ban hours before it could take effect, “arguing that its primary purpose remained ‘suspending the entry of Muslims’ rather than ensuring national security, as the Trump administration has insisted,” Talking Points Memo reported Thursday.
In his ruling, Watson pointed to staff for Trump making frequent calls for a “Muslim ban,” both during the campaign and at the start of his administration.
Hirono, a Democrat and an immigrant from Japan, tweeted out her response Thursday: “Hey Jeff Sessions, this #IslandinthePacific has been the 50th state for going on 58 years. And we won’t succumb to your dog whistle politics.”
She added, “Hawaii was built on the strength of diversity & immigrant experiences — including my own. Jeff Sessions’ comments are ignorant & dangerous.”
Hirono’s office later sent out this statement:
“The suggestion that being from Hawaii somehow disqualifies Judge Watson from performing his Constitutional duty is dangerous, ignorant, and prejudiced. I am frankly dumbfounded that our nation’s top lawyer would attack our independent judiciary. But we shouldn’t be surprised. This is just the latest in the Trump Administration’s attacks against the very tenets of our Constitution and democracy.”
Fellow Democrat Schatz tweeted, “Mr. Attorney General: You voted for that judge. And that island is called Oahu. It’s my home. Have some respect.”
Schatz’s campaign later sent out this message:
“There is no doubt Trump’s supporters and Republicans from across the country will come after me for taking him and his Attorney General on, but Hawaii is my home, and defending what’s right is always my number one priority.”
The senator then asked supporters for a donation to his campaign.
Meanwhile, CNN reported on what the Justice Department had to say about their boss.
Spokesperson Ian D. Prior clarified Sessions’ remarks: “Hawaii is, in fact, an island in the Pacific, a beautiful one where the Attorney General’s granddaughter was born. The point, however, is that there is a problem when a flawed opinion by a single judge can block the President’s lawful exercise of authority to keep the entire country safe.”
Schatz then countered with another tweet, suggesting a more appropriate response from the DOJ: “Try: ‘I’m sorry. That was offensive. I disagree with the ruling, but I respect the judiciary and shouldn’t have taken such a cheap shot.'”
Politico noted that Sessions has received a lot of blowback on social media.
“Matthew Miller, a former Department of Justice spokesperson in the Obama administration, called the comment “an extraordinary attack on a federal judge’s right to do his job by a sitting AG,” according to Politico’s report.