Trump administration lawyers find themselves once again grappling with tweets from President Donald Trump that at times undercut arguments his own Justice Department is making in court.
Trump’s tweets and extracurricular comments have played a significant role in the travel ban litigation, and now his Twitter feed could complicate a critical deadline in his efforts to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
The latest example came Thursday as a federal judge in New York heard arguments concerning the administration’s planned termination of DACA, the Obama-era program meant to bring relief to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children.
Challengers rushed to court almost immediately after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced this month the administration would be ending the program. And the President rushed to his Twitter account.
Trump suggested in one tweet that if Congress failed to act to pass legislation in six months, he’d “revisit the issue.”
Later Trump tweeted: “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!”
That tweet caught the eye of Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis, who was nominated by President Bill Clinton and hearing a challenge brought by Dreamer Martin Batalla Vidal.
“I do follow the President’s tweets,” Garaufis said.
Garaufis read the tweet aloud in court, according to a transcript, and zeroed in on one aspect of the case: A deadline imposed by the Department of Homeland Security that requires the renewal of applications for certain category of individuals to occur before October 5.
Garaufis seemed concerned that the deadline could kick some out of the program if they weren’t able to meet it.
“They pay taxes, they pay rent, they pay for mortgages, they support communities,” the judge said of the individuals involved. He added that he was concerned with the government proceeding with “arbitrary deadlines.”
“My hope would be, frankly, that the executive branch would put a voluntary halt to this, the termination process, to permit Congress and the President to find a legislative solution so the courts are not involved,” he said.
Trump’s “own statements would belie any effort to throw these people out without good cause and it would just seem to be arbitrary,” Garaufis said.
Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brett A. Shumate responded that the administration was “actively considering” whether to extend the deadline in light of hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
But that didn’t seem to satisfy the judge. “I think we would just not focus on people in the impacted areas from the hurricanes, we need to focus on everybody,” he said.
If the October 5 deadline is not extended, the judge might entertain a request for a temporary restraining order from the challengers. But critically, if the deadline is extended, it could infuriate not only Trump’s base, but several states who have insisted the program come to a quick end.
The parties are set to revisit the issue next week.
Meanwhile, the President is on notice: the judge has his eyes on Twitter.