US president Donald Trump has learned that everything he tweets can and will be used against him in a court of law.
On June 12, the 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals cited a presidential tweet laced with capital letters and exclamation marks as supporting evidence for its decision to block Trump’s travel ban.
The proposed policy, which would bar travelers from six majority Muslim countries from entering the US, has been under court review for months. The 9th Circuit is the latest to reject it. In an 86-page opinion (pdf), three judges on the court said that the order violates laws that prohibit country-based discrimination, and that the government failed to explain how being a citizen of a certain country makes someone more prone to be a terrorist.
“Indeed, the president recently confirmed his assessment that it is the ‘countries’ that are inherently dangerous, rather than the 180 million individual nationals of those countries,” wrote the court in its opinion.
It included a clarification about Trump’s liberal use of capitals: “emphasis in original.” It also cited a CNN story reporting that the president’s own press secretary says @realDonaldTrump tweets are “official statements.”
Legal experts had said a series of Trumpian tweets on the travel ban, which he delivered on June 5 and June 6, in the aftermath of the June 3rd terror attack in London, would undermine the case the US Department of Justice has been trying to make. The administration’s lawyers have been arguing that the ban is not religiously motivated, or discriminatory.
But even before those specific tweets, the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals had already found (pdf) that the executive order “drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination.” Trump’s favorite social media platform even had a small cameo, with the court noting that Trump responded to a tweet on the muslim ban to clarify his thinking on the matter. The government has appealed that finding with the US Supreme Court.
The messiness that Trump’s tweets insert into the case—on another one, he called the courts slow and political—might dissuade the Supreme Court from taking it up, though the consistency of the appeals court rulings suggest the highest court may not need to settle any questions of constitutionality. If it does, however, Trump’s tweets will be a key piece of evidence.