Why the travel ban ruling is a political win for Trump

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," June 26, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president was honored by the nine-zero decision that allows him to use an important tool to protect our nation's homeland. His number one responsibility as commander-in-chief is to keep the American people safe, and that's exactly what this executive order does.


BILL HEMMER, FOX NEWS: I want to bring in -- Sean Spicer there from the White House a bit earlier today -- I want to bring in the map which shows the six countries affected. It includes Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, and Syria. Remember, Iraq had been on the list originally last winter but then it was removed when they went forward with version 2.0.

I want to bring in the panel: Jonah Goldberg, senior editor of National Review; A.B. Stoddard, associate editor at Real Clear Politics, and Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist, fresh in from the American west. Good evening all three of you. A White House victory. Jonah, start.

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW: Yes. No, I think that's absolutely right. This was political a win and a vindication for Donald Trump and for the travel ban. But it was also a win for the plain letter of the law. Part of the reason why this was such a clear win for the White House is that the White House was just on the right side of the constitutional legal argument.

The president has plenipotentiary power to, one, immigration in the name of national security going back to the 1950s. It's not necessarily a constitutional power, although it is, it's a statue. And the ninth circuit opinion, I think the fourth circuit court opinion were just really bad and clearly very political decisions. And it would have been a huge mass if the Supreme Court had not clarified that the president in fact does have these powers.

And at the same time it did trim back certainly some of the more expansive ideas of what the ban is supposed to be. People from these countries can come in, they just need to have a good reason.

HEMMER: The constitution gives him the right to do it, but these other courts back in February and March, we were sitting here and listening to them. They didn't think so much, Mollie.

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST: These rulings were kind of ridiculous. They weren't reading the plain letter of the law. They were going through Donald Trump's campaign tweets and trying to ascertain some deeper meaning. And that was a very bad precedent to set, this idea that we can judge Donald Trump differently than we just all other political leaders. So this was a very important win.

And I also want to point out that this was an important win for religious liberty today. And a big reason why a lot of people voted for Donald Trump was for the Supreme Court to protect religious liberty. There was the huge case Trinity Lutheran. There is also news that they are going to take up a very important case about free expression when it comes to the cake baker in Colorado. So just in general this was a good day for Donald Trump.

HEMMER: Let me read this statement, A.B., and you can react. It's on screen for our viewers. "Today's unanimous Supreme Court is a clear victory for national security," this from the president earlier today. "As president I cannot allow people into our country who want to do us harm. My number one responsibility as commander in chief is to keep the American people safe. Today's ruling allows me to use an important tool for protecting our nation's homeland. I am also particularly gratified the Supreme Court's decision was 9-0." A.B.?

A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Well, I think it was definitely a victory for the president. It doesn't really tell us what will happen when they consider this in full in the fall, but it looks good.

Most importantly it was a policy victory. It was a validation of policy. It was not just a win in the special election in in a district where Republicans were favored or a good justice that you put on the Supreme Court or a good day when someone messes up their testimony. It wasn't a political victory. It was a policy victory. And I think he really needs one. And I think it's going to give him a very good boost.

The next thing that's really important is the way that this was launched was really kind of a botched disaster. So it's an opportunity to show some competence. And if they are organized and ready to re-impose this ban and do it effectively over the days and weeks to come, this will be another also, essentially a separate victory for him in terms of their governance and their collective organization in contrast to the way that it went January.

HEMMER: We know it was a 72 hour rollout now, which was not the case originally.

GOLDBERG: That's right. And there is a certain amount of Chief Justice Roberts kicking the can down the road by doing it this way. It upholds this thing in principle, but, as A.B. says, by the time this actually gets there the 90 days will be up. Who knows what the official policy will be? And we may come back to see a very different situation.

HEMMER: Mollie was touching on some of the other rulings today from the Supreme Court just in an overall sense. I want to play the Democrat from Hawaii, Congresswoman Hirono, on MSBNC a bit earlier today and just see how this has been characterized now that you have Gorsuch and the complete plate of nine justices. And she said this.


SEN. MAZIE HIRONO, D-HI.: Neil Gorsuch, who I did not support as a Supreme Court justice, he's joined two of the most conservative justices, Clarence Thomas and Alito on the court to take the position that the entire injunction should have been lifted. This is like the three horsemen of the apocalypse, and they are waiting for the fourth one to come along so that they can go on their trend toward what I call extremism.


HEMMER: Here we go on day one. That is some loaded answers, "three horsemen of the apocalypse and what I call extremism." Is this the way this is going to go, Mollie?

HEMINGWAY: It certainly does sound like some extreme rhetoric in response to these decisions that we saw today which in fact showed quite a few justices really focusing on constitutional jurisprudence. It was a great and exciting day for Gorsuch watchers. People knew from his record that he was a strong constitutionalist. But just to be able to see him in action was key.

One of the things that I thought was really interesting is that he went to the court to actually protect Second Amendment case, or to hear a Second Amendment case that they decided not too which was very unfortunately for people who care about Second Amendment issues. So you have free expression issues in the First Amendment, Second Amendment issues, and then you also have his position on this travel ban, all very comforting to people who are hoping for a good justice for a long time to come.

HEMMER: Do we get the sense the court changed today, A.B.?

STODDARD: I think again -- I don't think we can read into numbers -- the numbers are good for Trump, but I don't think we can read into it what this is going to mean going forward. I think that there might be some surprises. Kennedy is not retiring. Everyone was hoping that that would happened. But I think it's going through a transition.

Quickly on the senator's rhetoric, if I may. Democrats are doing the best that they can to repel every voter they've lost and every swing and independent voter. Hillary Clinton in the last couple of days called the Republicans the "death party." And they are trying to sort of mirror Trump. If he can talk that way, two wrongs are going to make a wrong. I'm absolutely blown away by what she said.

HEMMER: Jonah?

GOLDBERG: I think that's right. And we will have an opportunity to go back to the Democrats in the next panel.

HEMMER: You can --

GOLDBERG: I agree entirely with A.B. The rhetoric of the Democrats in the last couple, particularly on the health care stuff, is so outrageous and so disproportionate. They are basically saying any attempt to do entitlement reform is murder, is tantamount to murder now.

And I just want to say on the question about the Supreme Court, I was reading Gorsuch's decision on the religious liberty case and in terms of the Trinity Church, and one of the things he demonstrated is that he might be as entertaining and as good a writer as Scalia. And people forget that Scalia's role on the court wasn't just as a conservative vote. It was also as this great expositor of conservative ideas. He sort of provided intellectual light shows that captured people's attentions and that framed the debate. And Gorsuch gives a hint that he may be as good as that.

HEMMER: He was billed that way. And so you're saying --

GOLDBERG: And it's very rare that conservative appointees actually pan out to be what they were billed as.

HEMMER: Mollie?

HEMINGWAY: And speaking of rhetoric, one of the other issues that's interesting, that travel ban issue implicitly recognizes that the government has a likely win on that, but a lot of people are calling for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to recuse herself because she was so outspoken against that ban and against President Trump during the campaign specifically related to that. And it will be interesting to watch that and see whether she does recuse or whether it even matters.

HEMMER: It was the 120 day temporary ban where the administration wanted to pull back from these now six countries, A.B. And now we may not have a decision on this for 10, 11 months down the road.

STODDARD: I mean, as Jonah said, the timeline is going to expire. I think it still validates his policy today and he's going to take the victory that he has today. Whether or not, look, they haven't even begun the extreme vetting that they promised. This is not a perfect situation, but this is a policy victory for Donald Trump. He should take what he gets.

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