Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz said Attorney General Jeff Sessions insulted the people of Hawaii when he dismissed a ruling against the Trump administration’s travel ban as merely the actions of a “judge sitting on an island in the Pacific.”
“This is an insult to the people of the state of Hawaii,” Schatz said of Session’s characterization of the state during an appearance Friday on CNN. “We are an island chain. Not one island. And the way he seems to characterize our federal judge and our American taxpayers is that somehow we’re less legitimate than the rest of the country.”
Schatz went on to vouch for home state, adding: “We’re very proud of who we are and what we contribute to the country.”
The Hawaii Democrat also criticized the Trump administration’s repeated verbal attacks against sitting U.S. judges.
“Maybe the troubling aspect is this is pattern of this administration attacking the judiciary,” he said. “You have to respect the rule of law and the rules of the game.”
Schatz said Sessions ought to formally apologize to Hawaii-based Federal District Court Judge Derrick Watson and the people of the state, a call Sessions rebuffed during an interview earlier Friday.
On CNN, Sessions was asked whether he regretted his comments.
“I don’t know that I said anything that I would want to phrase differently,” he said. “No. We’re going to defend the president’s order. We believe it’s constitutional.”
The attorney general added that he was not criticizing the state, calling it a “fabulous place” and noting that his granddaughter was born there.
During an interview with conservative radio host Mark Levin on Wednesday, Sessions was asked to weigh in on Watson’s ruling to block President Donald Trump’s second travel ban order.
“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.
Session’s characterization of the state of Hawaii — and of the judge — have since been widely criticized by state officials.