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Washington Attorney General Says Travel Ban Will Probably Go To SCOTUS


Continuing our special coverage of President Donald Trump's first 100 days in office, we wanted to circle back to one of the flashpoints. We're talking about the attempt to impose a ban on travel to the U.S. from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The ban sparked chaos at some airports, intense legal maneuvering and massive protests. After a few days, a federal judge stopped the order acting on a petition by Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson. A second attempt has also been blocked.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: A judge has just blocked our executive order on travel and refugees coming into our country from certain countries.

MARTIN: This 100-day moment seems a good time to check back in with Attorney General Bob Ferguson who was kind enough to join us in our studios in Washington, D.C. Mr. Attorney General, thank you so much for speaking with us.

BOB FERGUSON: Thanks for having me, really appreciate it, Michel.

MARTIN: So if you're just joining the program I'm asking all of our guests today who are from across the political spectrum for an overall assessment of President Trump's first 100 days in office. So, Mr. Attorney General, you're a Democrat. Your thoughts?

FERGUSON: Sure. What I think I can speak to is his inability to sign and execute an executive order that's actually constitutional. And I think his difficulties there go to the fact that the preparation, the work that goes into those executive orders has been sorely lacking on many fronts.

MARTIN: So could you just give us a sense of where the travel ban is now? What is the status of it?

FERGUSON: You bet. Well, essentially the original travel ban has been shut down, blocked in the courts, and they've essentially given up on that. So our initial litigation worked. He has done a revised travel ban, as you know, after many weeks of consideration. That has also been blocked in a couple of different courts - in Hawaii and in Maryland. Those cases are on appeal.

But while those cases go up on appeal, the executive order has been stopped and injunction is in place. I do think, Michel, the long story very short is this will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

MARTIN: So you alluded to this a little bit in your last answer which is this is just the latest example of the executive branch which is at odds with priorities at other jurisdictional levels. But let's talk about that kind of the conflict with local governmental priorities.

In your state, Seattle is one of several cities that President Trump is threatening with removing federal funds because he views them as sanctuary cities, the attorney general has also indicated that there may be a crackdown on states including Washington that have legalized recreational marijuana use. Has this presidency reshaped the local governments sense of their own authority? Has it curtailed it in some way?

FERGUSON: I think what I would say is I don't think it's curtailed it. I think there is a heightened awareness of what's coming out of Washington right now, whether you're a state attorney general or a local elected official at a city like Seattle. But one thing that's been consistent, though, is on each of these efforts by the administration, they've been blocked by the courts.

They've yet to find a single federal judge in numerous administrations - both judges appointed by Republican presidents and Democratic presidents - who agree with them on the travel ban or the sanctuary city executive order. That's been a key point, I think. And, frankly, it reinforces that the rule of law is still paramount. You can't talk your way out of a court room. You can't tweet your way out of it. It's not the loudest voice that prevails. It's the Constitution.

MARTIN: I wanted to ask you about the - sort of the political side of this. What do you think is your primary responsibility now? Is it to resist - is the term that many protesters use - I mean, obviously the courts are your venue - is to resist what you consider to be overreaching by the Trump administration? Or is it to do something else? I mean, should it be focused on winning more races? Should it be focused on grooming another generation of elected leadership.

What's the pathway for Democrats here? What should they be spending their time on since time is the one thing they're not making more of?

FERGUSON: I guess I'll answer that in two ways. For an attorney general like myself, my work is very focused. I don't think of it to your question as resist. I get thousands of letters from people saying exactly that. Thanks for resisting. I don't think of it that way, Michel. I think of the rule of law, making sure the president is accountable to that, if he's harming Washingtonians, then I need to hold him accountable to that. That's how I view my role.

Now, on the broader question of Democrats more generally, in some respects, all of the above. I will say, though, I have a particular interest in the fact that I think as a Democratic Party, we're strong at grassroots work, but I think we've been singularly unimpressive at issues such as redistricting, for example. That has gone on in past years where Democrats have really been harmed, and that's been creating for a generation real problems for us or being really mindful of our bench, building at the state legislative level, state legislatures across the country dominated by Republicans. Even in my very blue state of Washington, the state Senate is controlled by Republicans. As a result, our Democratic governor has a difficult time getting some key things through the legislature. So I would like to see a greater focus at that local level that I think is critically important.

MARTIN: That was Washington's Attorney General Bob Ferguson. He was kind enough to join us in our studios in Washington, D.C. Mr. Attorney General, thank you so much for speaking with us.

FERGUSON: Thank you, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.