The two senators from Hawaii are taking Attorney General Jeff Sessions to task for derisive comments he made about the island state.
Though Sessions was 13 years old when Hawaii became a state, he still expressed dismay that a judge from Oahu could render a verdict against President Donald Trump’s proposed travel ban for Muslims from certain countries in the Middle East.
“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,” Jeff Sessions said during a conservative radio interview.
Those comments drew ire from Sen. Mazie Hirono and Sen. Brian Schatz, both Democrats from Hawaii.
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
— Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) April 20, 2017
Mr. Attorney General: You voted for that judge. And that island is called Oahu. It's my home. Have some respect. https://t.co/sW9z3vqBqG
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) April 20, 2017
As Sen. Schatz points out, Sessions himself voted for District Judge Derrick Watson, who was nominated in 2012 by then-President Barack Obama. The Senate confirmed Judge Watson by a vote of 94-0.
As Attorney General, Sessions is fully aware of the checks and balances that allow federal judges to halt decisions made by the president. A judge may issue an injunction on presidential orders or even laws passed by Congress and signed by the president if it is deemed to violate the U.S. Constitution.
Sessions, in his statement to the radio station, seems to dismiss the legitimacy of Judge Watson, presumably because the decree came from the island state and not the mainland territory.
Sessions also suggested that the president’s executive order would soon be found Constitutional. “We are confident that the President will prevail on appeal and particularly in the Supreme Court, if not the Ninth Circuit,” he said. He further suggested that President Trump’s future choices in judges would be affected by such decisions.
“I think our President, having seen some of these really weird interpretations of the executive orders that he’s put out, I think he’s more understanding now that we need judges who follow the law, not make law,” Sessions said.