Sessions' Hawaii remarks stir ire

AG’s island judge comments on travel-ban case rile lawmakers

Posted: April 21, 2017 at 2:50 a.m.
Updated: April 21, 2017 at 2:50 a.m.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions prepares to speak before a meeting of the Attorney General's Organized Crime Council and Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Executive Committee to discuss implementation of the President's Executive Order 13773, at the Department of Justice, Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Washington.

HONOLULU -- Hawaii's Democratic lawmakers Thursday criticized U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions after he expressed amazement on a radio show that a "judge sitting on an island in the Pacific" could stop the president's travel ban.

Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii questions Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wedn...

U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono responded by trying to give Sessions a civics lesson on Twitter, saying Hawaii has been a U.S. state for 58 years.

The senator said later in a telephone interview that the remarks showed a lack of awareness about the separation of powers between the judiciary and executive branches.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson blocked President Donald Trump's executive order prohibiting new visas for people from six Muslim-majority countries and temporarily halting the U.S. refugee program. The Trump administration has appealed the ruling.

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Sessions told the Mark Levin Show he's confident the president will prevail with his administration's appeal of Watson's travel ban ruling.

"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 said.

Hirono also said Sessions' remarks suggested that he is prejudiced against Hawaii.

"Why isn't a federal judge from Hawaii as able as any other judge from anywhere to issue rulings?" Hirono asked.

She told Session on Twitter "we won't succumb to your dog whistle politics."

U.S. Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior said in an email that Sessions was questioning one judge's ability to block the president's executive order for the travel ban.

"Hawaii is, in fact, an island in the Pacific -- a beautiful one where the Attorney General's granddaughter was born," Prior said. "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."

Hirono and Sen. Brian Schatz emphasized that Sessions voted as a senator to confirm Watson as a judge.

Schatz chided Sessions more on Twitter by telling him the island where Watson made the ruling is named Oahu.

"It's my home. Have some respect," he said.

A Section on 04/21/2017