It’s been a busy week for Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly are currently touring the U.S.-Mexico border to draw attention to illegal immigration and its impact on the country. But a series of remarks from Sessions about places far from the Southwest, including criticisms of major-city police departments, drew the most attention.
It began during an interview with conservative radio host Mark Levin on Thursday, where Sessions made an unusual attack on the federal judiciary for blocking President Trump’s travel ban. “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,” he said. Compounding its strangeness was the odd suggestion that Hawaii, which gained statehood in 1959, was somehow a lesser part of the United States.
The remark drew criticism on multiple levels. Hawaii Attorney General Danny Chin, who is challenging the travel ban, called Sessions’s comments about the judiciary “disappointing.” The state’s congressional delegation also leapt to rebuke Sessions’s insinuation that the “island in the Pacific” was anything less than a full-fledged member of the Union.
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
A few hours later, the attorney general’s office tried to quell the outrage while repeating his criticism of federal judge Derrick Watson. “Hawaii is, in fact, an island in the Pacific — a beautiful one where the Attorney General’s granddaughter was born,” a Justice Department spokesman said in a statement. “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.” (As a senator, Sessions had previously voted to confirm Watson to the bench.)