Notably, the president’s tweet appears to make a statutory argument in favor of the ban ― premised on a law Department of Justice lawyers contend gives the nation’s chief executive near-unfettered authority to exclude from the country any non-citizen he’d wish.
More notably, Trump’s tweet cites the excellent Lawfare blog, which on Thursday night published a post by its editor-in-chief guiding readers on what the appeals ruling against Trump’s travel restrictions means.
Long story short: Trump almost certainly didn’t read the post, in which its author, Benjamin Wittes, very clearly noted that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit reached the correct decision ― plus his inescapable observation that the president’s executive order targeting Muslims was implemented with “incompetent malevolence.”
But Wittes’ point was broader: There are important statutory questions that the appeals panel didn’t wrestle with ― namely, the tension between the ample authority Congress has given the president to oversee immigration policy, and the problem of arriving at a policy with malevolent, discriminatory intent.
The Constitution, as the 9th Circuit suggested, disallows that.
But there’s another point to the ruling and the Lawfare post: The ruling is indeed quite narrow, focusing on whether the travel ban should remain blocked for now, while the merits of its legality are fought out in lower courts.
So why did Trump ignore all of that and cherry-pick Lawfare’s line that the 9th Circuit didn’t “bother” to address the statute? The Huffington Post’s social media maven, Ethan Klapper, may have figured it out:
Trump apparently saw that line quoted on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and then tweeted a version of it ― confirming reports that the president, even in the White House, maintains a healthy cable news diet, which he then shares with his tens of millions of Twitter followers.
Wittes, for his part, is elated that Trump has drawn attention to Lawfare’s work, and has gone on a Twitter campaign of his own to promote other essays he has written that are highly critical of the travel ban and Trump’s presidency.
“So thanks, Mr. President, for endorsing my work,” Wittes tweeted Friday. “You’ve found the only sentence in it congenial to your views.”