The federal judge who issued the broadest injunction against President Donald Trump’s travel ban executive order seems irked by confusing statements from the White House and Justice Department lawyers about the replacement Trump has promised to issue.
Seattle-based U.S. District Court Judge James Robart indicated in an order Friday that he agrees with challengers of the first ban that statements from Trump and his aides seem to be at odds with government attorneys’ promises that a new order will “rescind” the old one.
“Plaintiffs cite numerous contradictory statements by President Trump and others in his administration to the effect that they will continue to defend the Executive Order at issue in this litigation in addition to issuing a new Executive Order,” wrote Robart. “The court understands Plaintiffs’ frustrations concerning statements emanating from President Trump’s administration that seemingly contradict representations of the federal government’s lawyers in this and other litigation before the court.”
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the judge’s order.
Acting on a lawsuit brought by the states of Washington and Minnesota, Robart blocked Trump’s first travel ban order last month. However, the new order from the judge came in a separate, private class-action lawsuit filed by individuals in Washington state claiming to be impacted by Trump’s original order banning travel to the U.S. by citizens of seven majority-Muslim nations.
Soon after a federal appeals court turned down the government’s request to stay Robart’s order pending an appeal, Trump and his aides indicated that he would issue a second executive order designed to address some of the concerns set forth in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling.
The president and his aides have repeatedly indicated that the signing of a new order was imminent, but the event has yet to take place. One recent plan called for the order to be signed this past Wednesday at the Justice Department, administration sources said. That event was reportedly scuttled so that Trump could bask in positive reviews of his Tuesday night speech to Congress and the nation.
Now, the same officials who publicly indicated the order could be expected in the middle of the past week are declining to predict when it will be signed.
The substance of administration statements about the forthcoming order has also been confusing. Trump has said he plans to continue to defend the original order in court, even though Justice Department lawyers asked the 9th Circuit to vacate its ruling in the case once a new order is issued. And White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters last month that Trump would not rescind the original order, although government attorneys have told the courts that it would be rescinded.
Robart’s order Friday granted a two-week extension of a government filing deadline in the private lawsuit. The judge said that despite the contradictory information emanating from other parts of the administration, he “will continue to rely on the representations of the government’s attorneys, as officers of the court” that a new order is forthcoming that will replace and significantly revise Trump’s original Jan. 27 directive.
Robart is an appointee of President George W. Bush.