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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A White House official on Sunday attacked a U.S. court ruling that blocked President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration as a “judicial usurpation of power” and said the administration was considering a range of options, including a new order.

Sustained criticism of the judiciary from the White House comes amid concern among Democrats and legal scholars over Trump’s view of the constitutional principle of judicial independence as the administration seeks to overcome legal setbacks to its travel ban issued on Jan. 27.

It has also become the backdrop against which U.S. senators consider Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, for a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court.

The Republican president said on Friday that he may issue a new executive order rather than go through lengthy court challenges to the original one, which temporarily barred entry to the United States of people from seven Muslim-majority countries.

“We have multiple options and we are considering all of them,” White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller said on ABC’s This Week.

Miller sharply criticized the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on Thursday that upheld a Seattle federal judge’s suspension of Trump’s executive order. He accused the San Francisco-based court of having a history of overreaching and of being overturned.

“This is a judicial usurpation of power,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “The president’s powers here are beyond question.”

The Trump administration has defended the travel ban on grounds it will prevent potential terrorists from entering the country, although no acts of terrorism have been perpetrated on U.S. soil by citizens of the targeted countries.

The ban’s announcement, late on a Friday, sparked a weekend of confusion at airports around the globe and within the federal agencies charged with enforcing it. It also triggered widespread protests and legal challenges.

Aware that a new executive order would allow critics to declare victory against the travel ban, the White House has deflected blame and intensified its criticism of the judiciary.

“I think it’s been an important reminder to all Americans that we have a judiciary that has taken far too much power and become in many cases a supreme branch of government,” Miller said on CBS’ Face the Nation.

“One unelected judge in Seattle cannot make laws for the entire country. I mean this is just crazy,” he said.

Miller’s performance on several Sunday news shows won a plaudit on Twitter from Trump, who has himself attacked individual judges and called the courts “so political.”

“Great job!” Trump tweeted.

ATTACKS CONDEMNED

Gorsuch condemned the attacks on the judiciary as “disheartening” in private meetings last week with a number of U.S. senators, who pressed the judge to go public. Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist, confirmed the conversations.

Legal experts said the Trump administration statements could undermine respect for the constitutional division of powers.

Cornell University law professor Jens David Ohlin said that accusing the judiciary of usurping the president’s powers demonstrated “an absurd lack of appreciation for the separation of powers.”

“Miller is coming dangerously close to reviving a discredited and dangerous theory that each branch of government, including the president, has independent authority to decide what the law and Constitution mean,” Ohlin said in an interview on Sunday.

“In our system of government, the commander in chief executes the laws, but it is the judiciary which interprets both the laws and statutes passed by Congress and the Constitution. That’s their solemn duty,” he added.

Ilya Shapiro, a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, said Trump’s remarks could diminish popular respect for institutions of law and order by making Americans think “the government’s a joke, that you don’t have to follow what judges say.”

Immigration laws give the U.S. president broad powers to restrict who enters the country on national security grounds.

But the same laws forbid discrimination based on race, sex, nationality, place of birth, or residence. The case also could involve First Amendment protections involving religion.

Trump’s executive order banned entry into the United States to refugees and citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days, except refugees from Syria, who were banned indefinitely.

Options for the administration include formulating a new executive action, appealing the 9th Circuit panel’s decision to the full appeals court and appealing the emergency stay to the U.S. Supreme Court, Miller said.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Julia Harte; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Alan Crosby and Peter Cooney)

IMAGE: Senior White House Advisor Stephen Miller waits to go on the air in the White House Briefing Room in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

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  • 1.Why did Trump choose to hide certain specific files and not others at Mar-a-Lago? What were the criteria that Trump used to keep some files concealed and not others? Who selected those files? Did Trump consult or direct anyone in his selection of secret files? Trump was notorious for being too impatient to read his briefing papers, even after they had been drastically shortened and simplified. Is there the slightest evidence that he spirited these papers away so that he could consult or study them? Who besides Trump knew of the presence of the files he had concealed at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 2. Mar-a-Lago has an infamous reputation for being open to penetration even by foreign spies. In 2019, the FBI arrested a Chinese woman who had entered the property with electronic devices. She was convicted of trespassing, lying to the Secret Service, and sentenced and served eight-months in a federal prison, before being deported to China. Have other individuals with possible links to foreign intelligence operations been present at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 3. Did members of Trump's Secret Service detail have knowledge of his secret storage of the files at Mar-a-Lago? What was the relationship of the Secret Service detail to the FBI? Did the Secret Service, or any agent, disclose information about the files to the FBI?
  • 4. Trump's designated representatives to the National Archives are Kash Patel and John Solomon, co-conspirators in the investigations into Russian interference in the presidential election of 2016, the Ukraine missiles-for-political dirt scandal that led to the first impeachment in 2019, and the coup of 2020. Neither has any professional background in handling archival materials. Patel, a die-hard Trump loyalist whose last job in the administration was as chief of staff to the Acting Secretary of Defense, was supposedly involved in Trump’s “declassification” of some files. Patel has stated, “Trump declassified whole sets of materials in anticipation of leaving government that he thought the American public should have the right to read themselves."
  • The White House counsel failed to generate the paperwork to change the classification markings, but that doesn’t mean the information wasn’t declassified.” If Pat Cipollone, the White House legal counsel, did not “generate the paperwork,” was he or anyone on his staff aware at all of the declassifications? The White House Staff Secretary Derek Lyons resigned his post in December 2020. Did his successor, who held the position for a month, while Trump was consumed with plotting his coup, ever review the material found in Trump’s concealed files for declassification? Or did Patel review the material? Can Patel name any individual who properly reviewed the supposed declassification?
  • 5. Why did Trump keep his pardon of Roger Stone among his secret files? Was it somehow to maintain leverage over Stone? What would that leverage be? Would it involve Stone's role as a conduit with the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers during the coup? Or is there another pardon in Trump’s files for Stone, a secret pardon for his activities in the January 6th insurrection? Because of the sweeping nature of the pardon clause, pardons can remain undisclosed (until needed). Pardons are self-executing, require no justification and are not subject to court review beyond the fact of their timely execution. In other words, a court may verify the pardon was valid in time but has no power to review appropriateness. A pardon could even be oral but would need to be verifiable by a witness. Do the files contain secret pardons for Trump himself, members of his family, members of the Congress, and other co-conspirators?
  • 6.Was the FBI warrant obtained to block the imminent circulation or sale of information in the files to foreign powers? Does the affidavit of the informant at Mar-a-Lago, which has not been released, provide information about Trump’s monetization that required urgency in executing the warrant? Did Trump monetize information in any of the files? How? With whom? Any foreign power or entity? Was the Saudi payment from its sovereign wealth fund for the LIV Golf Tournament at Trump’s Bedminster Golf Club for a service that Trump rendered, an exchange of anything of value or information that was in the files? If it involved information in the files was it about nuclear programs? Was it about the nuclear program of Israel? How much exactly was the Saudi payment for the golf tournament? The Saudi sovereign wealth fund gave Jared Kushner and former Trump Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin $2 billion for their startup hedge fund, Affinity Partners. Do the Saudis regard that investment as partial payment for Trump’s transfer of nuclear information? Were Kushner or Mnuchin aware of the secret files at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 7.Did Trump destroy any of the files? If so, when? Did those files contain incriminating information? Did he destroy any files after he received the June subpoena?
  • 8.Were any of the secrets of our allies compromised? Has the U.S. government provided an inventory of breaches or potential breaches to our allies?
  • 9.Does the resort maintain a copying machine near the classified documents that Trump hid? Were any of the documents copied or scanned? Are Trump’s documents at Mar-a-Lago originals or copies? Were any copies shown or given to anyone?
  • 10.Trump’s lawyer Christina Bobb has revealed that a video surveillance system covers the places where Trump hid the files at Mar-a-Lago, and that the system is connected to a system at his other residences at the Bedminster Golf Club in New Jersey and Trump Tower in New York City. According to Bobb, Trump and members of his family observed the FBI search and seizure of his files at Mar-a-Lago, “actually able to see the whole thing” through their surveillance system. Who has that surveillance system recorded entering the rooms where the files were kept?

Kevin Bacon, right, in "The Following"

The aftermath of the August 8, 2022 search of the Mar-a-Lago club, former President Donald Trump’s Florida home, isn’t the first showdown between the FBI and a cult leader.

The Following, a 2013 Fox Pictures series, played out in similar fashion. Three seasons was enough for the producers and it’s been nine years since our introduction to Joe Carroll, English professor-novelist-serial killer, so there’s a spoiler risk -- but not enough to prevent the comparison.

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