One of those only-in-the-Trump-era sagas rolled out at 6:52 a.m. this morning when the president tweeted out a comment that undermined his administration’s legal position in its death struggle with California over sanctuary cities. To understand it, though, some background is necessary.
On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court refused (without comment, which is normally the case) to hear the State of Arizona’s appeal of a 9th Circuit decision invalidating its cancellation of driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants protected by DACA. The Justice Department did not join the petition for high-court review because the 2012 case had been “overtaken by events,” presumably meaning all the twists and turns in DACA policy since the suit was filed.
There the matter would have rested had not Lou Dobbs heard about the matter and freaked out.
After demonstrating his ignorance about how the Supreme Court works (guest Alan Dershowitz tried to educate him to no avail), Dobbs decided (with an assist from Dershowitz) to blame their refusal to hear the case on the Justice Department for not supporting Arizona’s barnacle-encrusted appeal. And this came to the attention of the Fox News devotee in the White House:
Trump didn’t tweet that this inaction was being placed in the lengthy debit column of his assessment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, though you can almost see the thought-bubble.
But as legal beagles everywhere immediately realized, POTUS had in fact thrown shade on the very strategy Sessions and company were pursuing in connection with the administration’s war with California over immigration enforcement. Ian Millhiser explains:
Brewer [the decision SCOTUS refused to review] stands for the proposition that the federal government generally reigns supreme in matters of immigration policy. In the words of the law, Arizona’s anti-immigrant policy is “preempted” by the web of federal immigration laws and policies determining which non-citizens are and are not permitted to live and work in the United States.
The Trump administration’s suit against California, known as United States v. California, rests on a similar legal theory. California passed a handful of laws which effectively make it more difficult for federal immigration officials to crack down on undocumented immigrants.
Just as he did in the travel-ban case, Trump’s loose lips are creating a world of trouble for his lawyers. As Millhiser concludes:
It is clear that Trump neither understands the legal arguments being made by his administration, nor cares to learn what those arguments are. That could make him California’s best friend in court.
Tempting as it might be for the Justice Department to maintain that the commander-in-chief doesn’t set policy for the administration when he’s ranting and raving on Twitter, there’s no established “Trump Twitter” exception to the general proposition that the president speaks for everyone in his employ. He’s a lawyer’s worst nightmare.