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Trump Rallies Base Reeling From Court Losses on Gay Rights, DACA

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 6/18/2020 Jordan Fabian
graffiti on a wall: A campaign flag silhouettes attendees waiting in line to enter a rally with U.S. President Trump, not pictured, in Lexington, Kentucky in 2019. © Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg A campaign flag silhouettes attendees waiting in line to enter a rally with U.S. President Trump, not pictured, in Lexington, Kentucky in 2019.

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump seized on Supreme Court defeats on gay rights and immigration this week to rally his conservative base, pledging to redouble his efforts to transform federal courts.

Trump on Thursday said the court’s split decisions gave voters even more reason to hand him a second term, and suggested issues such as gun ownership hang in the balance.

“These horrible & politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives,” Trump tweeted. “We need more Justices or we will lose our 2nd. Amendment & everything else. Vote Trump 2020!”

The rulings have some of Trump’s allies questioning whether his drive to put conservative judges on the federal bench would ultimately produce the results they want, such as overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

Shortly after the court’s immigration ruling was released on Thursday, Trump said he would produce a “new list” of possible conservative Supreme Court nominees by the beginning of September. He made the same move to shore up his support among conservatives during the 2016 campaign.

“Based on decisions being rendered now, this list is more important than ever before,” Trump tweeted.

More Combative

On Monday, the court ruled that federal law protects gay and transgender workers from being fired from their job based on their sexuality, a landmark decision for LGBT rights. Justice Neil Gorsuch, whom Trump nominated in 2017, wrote the opinion for the 6-3 majority, which included Chief Justice John Roberts and the court’s four liberals.

Trump said Monday he would “live” with the ruling, despite an outcry from social conservatives.

But his tone became more combative on Thursday, when a 5-4 majority led by Roberts made the surprise decision to block the Trump administration from ending Obama-era protections for hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.

The president rattled off a list of other Supreme Court actions he disagreed with, including a Monday decision not to hear the administration’s appeal of a lower court ruling upholding California’s sanctuary cities law, as well as a ruling last year halting the government’s plan to include a citizenship question on the 2020 Census.

The high court did hand Trump a major victory on immigration in 2018 when it upheld his travel ban, which mostly applied to majority-Muslim nations.

But the Thursday decision dealt yet another political blow to Trump’s re-election campaign, which has been vexed by his response to the coronavirus pandemic, nationwide protests over police brutality, and damaging revelations about his leadership in former national security adviser John Bolton’s memoir. Multiple polls show Trump trailing former Vice President Joe Biden nationally and in key battleground states.

Trump expressed a sense of personal grievance at the rulings, which he has used in the past to fire up his supporters.

“Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn’t like me?” he asked his Twitter followers on Thursday.

Liberal Victories

Taken together, the decisions boosted the morale of liberals who have groused for years about Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s project to install conservative judges.

Indeed, the GOP-led Senate has confirmed judges at a record pace during Trump’s presidency. On Thursday, it confirmed Justin Walker to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the 52nd Trump nominee to be put on the appellate bench and the 199th federal judge confirmed overall -- including Trump’s two appointments to the Supreme Court.

Liberals used this week’s court action as a rallying cry to urge their voters to get to the polls in November.

“They are American in every way but on paper,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said Thursday, referring to the immigrants protected under the Obama program. “And we’re going to make sure they’re here to stay by electing Joe Biden in November.”

Conservatives likewise tried to harness momentum over the anger about the rulings. They focused their ire on Roberts, a George W. Bush nominee who has publicly rebuked Trump for his attacks on the federal judiciary.

“If the Chief Justice believes his political judgment is so exquisite, I invite him to resign, travel to Iowa, and get elected,” Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, said in a statement Thursday. “I suspect voters will find his strange views no more compelling than do the principled justices on the Court.”

Another staunch Trump ally, Representative Jim Jordan, also accused Roberts of “convoluting the law to appease the D.C. establishment.”

But the decision may have spared Trump and the GOP from scrapping the immigration program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Migrants, at a politically difficult time. The coronavirus pandemic has created heightened health and economic worries. An estimated 29,000 DACA recipients are health-care workers.

Support For Legal Status

Almost three-quarters of Americans support granting legal status to immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children, according to a Pew Research Center poll released Wednesday.

Trump was coy about whether he would restart his effort to unilaterally scrap the DACA program. Due to the Supreme Court decision, he tweeted, “we have to start this process all over again” without specifying whether he would pursue legislation or a new executive order.

The ruling could also provide cover for endangered Senate Republicans on the ballot this year, especially in states with high Latino populations.

“Congress still needs to reach a long-term solution for Dreamers in the United States—including a pathway to citizenship,” said Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, who called for immediate passage of the Dream Act.

“I’ve fought many times in Congress to provide a legal status for DACA recipients while enhancing border security, closing loopholes in our laws, and modernizing our legal immigration system,” Senator Martha McSally of Arizona said, and suggested the White House and Congress work something out.

John Cornyn of Texas, who is also on the ballot, echoed calls for a legislative solution. “We don’t hold children responsible for the mistakes of their parents,” Cornyn said on the Senate floor. “These kids, young people I should say, are innocent.”

Trump has previously refused to back DACA legislation unless he gets concessions placing fresh restrictions on legal immigration.

(Updates with other Trump grievances with Supreme Court in 10th paragraph.)

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