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Hawaii Attorney General On Trump Travel Ban


Once again, a federal court has blocked President Trump's effort to stop people from a number of predominantly Muslim nations and refugees worldwide from entering the United States. This time, the ruling came from Honolulu. U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson based his decision on, quote, "significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus." The Trump administration says the president's order is about preventing terrorists - not Muslims - from entering the country. At a rally in Nashville last night, Trump said the order is, quote, "unprecedented judicial overreach," and he vowed to continue the legal fight.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We're going to win. We're going to keep our citizens safe. And regardless, we're going to keep our citizens safe. Believe me.

MARTIN: Let's talk now with Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin who brought the suit.

Welcome back to the program.

DOUGLAS CHIN: Thank you, Rachel.

MARTIN: Judge Watson, who gave this ruling, wrote that the president's order violates the First Amendment's protection against religious discrimination.

CHIN: That's right.

MARTIN: But unlike the president's first executive order, this revised order had no mention of religion. So can you walk us through your arguments that convinced the judge that religion is still an issue?

CHIN: Our argument was based on, you know, prior Supreme Court law where it basically has an understanding that, you know, courts don't just operate in a vacuum, that particularly when you're trying to locate a discriminatory intent, it's actually not enough just to be able to look at the text of the document because there might be a subterfuge going on.

And here in this case and in Judge Watson's order, he stated exactly that. He actually said that the fact that there were so many statements that were made from 2015 to 2016 to even when President Trump was already the president, then there were so many statements from his surrogates or people within his administration or himself that really indicated that their intent was to ban Muslims, which is a unconstitutional violation of the Establishment Clause.

MARTIN: So are those public statements sufficient as this case moves forward, from your perspective? Or how likely is it that President Trump himself could be ordered to turn over private communications in order to ascertain the intent?

CHIN: Well, you know, it's actually - one of the things that we argue is that it's not so much that we need to read president Trump's mind, but the standard is actually, how would a reasonable person looking at the situation and looking at the statements that were made - how would they reasonably interpret what was meant by it? And here, it seemed like the court was agreeing with us that the only reasonable interpretation that you can get out of a ban that has six Muslim-majority nations not allowed entry even though none of them actually committed any deathly terror attacks since 9/11 - really the only reasonable interpretation, when you line it up with everything that he said, was that it was a ban against - that disfavors one religion against another.

MARTIN: But doesn't the president have a point in that federal law gives him broad authority to admit or not admit certain groups of people?

CHIN: Right. He sure does. But I think it needs to be crafted in a way that doesn't violate the Constitution. And here, I think you have a situation where it seems like the president is a little bit locked in - like, he - like, in other words, he's not willing to let go or disavow the statements that he made before. It's a very strong statement that is coming, which is disturbing. It's not something that any of us would want to be, you know, any of us who comes from any sort of a different group that's not in a majority would be comfortable with.

MARTIN: Douglas Chin is the attorney general of the state of Hawaii.

Thanks so much for joining us this morning.

CHIN: Thanks, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.