Tracking the Trump Administration's Attacks on the Courts

The Trump administration’s persistent and unprecedented attacks on the legitimacy and independence of the federal judiciary present a serious threat to our democracy.  The following is a list of President Donald Trump’s attacks on the courts during his campaign and during his time in the White House. It is a part of Protect Democracy’s Preserving the Courts project. The Preserving the Courts Tracker will be updated on a regular basis.


February 26, 2018

President Trump speaking to a group of governors at the White House:

“Nothing’s as bad as the 9th Circuit. Speaking of that, DACA is going to be put back into the 9th Circuit. We tried to get it moved quickly because we’d like to help DACA. I think everybody in this room wants to help with DACA, but the Supreme Court just ruled it has to go through the normal channels. So it’s going back in.”

“It’s really sad when every single case filed against us is in the 9th Circuit, we lose, we lose, we lose, then we do fine in the Supreme Court. But what does that tell you about our court system? It’s a very, very sad thing.”

January 18, 2018

A Department of Homeland Security Inspector General report found that Customs and Border Protection

“violated two separate court orders” overturning portions of the President’s travel ban by “aggressive[ly] … preventing affected travelers from boarding aircraft bound for the United States.”

January 10, 2018

November 1, 2017

A statement by President Trump at a cabinet meeting:

“We also have to come up with punishment that’s far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now. They’ll go through court for years. And at the end, they’ll be — who knows what happens.

We need quick justice and we need strong justice — much quicker and much stronger than we have right now. Because what we have right now is a joke and it’s a laughingstock. And no wonder so much of this stuff takes place.”

June 5, 2017

April 28, 2017

A President Trump interview with the Washington Examiner.

WEX: “So in the first 100 days, federal judges have prevented some of your policies from moving forward. And you’re not the only Republican to be critical of the ideological bent of the 9th Circuit. Have you considered the proposals that are out there to break up the 9th Circuit?”

POTUS: “Absolutely I have. There are many people that want to break up the 9th Circuit. It’s outrageous. And you know, you talk about judge shopping — you saw today I mentioned that?”

WEX: “I did see.”

POTUS: “But you see judge shopping, or what’s gone on with these people, they immediately run to the 9th Circuit. It’s got close to an 80 percent reversal period, and what’s going on in the 9th Circuit is a shame. And hopefully, they will, in the 9th Circuit, do what’s right both on the ban and — you know we had the ban?”

April 26, 2017

April 25, 2017

A White House Statement in response to a ruling on Sanctuary Cities:

Today, the rule of law suffered another blow, as an unelected judge unilaterally rewrote immigration policy for our Nation….Once again, a single district judge — this time in San Francisco — has ignored Federal immigration law to set a new immigration policy for the entire country…. This San Francisco judge’s erroneous ruling is a gift to the criminal gang and cartel element in our country, empowering the worst kind of human trafficking and sex trafficking, and putting thousands of innocent lives at risk. This case is yet one more example of egregious overreach by a single, unelected district judge.  Today’s ruling undermines faith in our legal system and raises serious questions about circuit shopping.  But we are confident we will ultimately prevail in the Supreme Court, just as we will prevail in our lawful efforts to impose immigration restrictions necessary to keep terrorists out of the United States

April 20, 2017

An interview of Attorney General Jeff Sessions with radio host Marc Levin. At approximately (2:59), Attorney General Sessions says:

I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power.

Listen to the full interview here:

March 21, 2017

President Trump at a meeting of the Republican National Committee:

I have also followed through on my promise to secure, protect, and defend the borders of the United States, and, yes, we will build a great border wall at our southern border. Will be built. These security actions will save billions of dollars, millions of jobs, and thousands and thousands of lives. We’re also taking decisive action to improve our vetting procedures. The courts are not helping us, I have to be honest with you. It’s ridiculous. Somebody said I should not criticize judges. Okay, I’ll criticize judges. [Laughter] To keep criminals and terrorists the hell out of our country. [Laughter]

March 20, 2017

President Trump at a rally in Louisville, Kentucky:

“Uncontrolled immigration, you see what’s going on there. That’s happening quickly. Got a little problem with the courts not wanting to give us the decisions that should be given. But we’re going to win it.”

March 15, 2017

President Trump at a rally in Nashville, Tennessee:

The President. But let me give you the bad news. We don’t like bad news, right?

Audience members. No!

The President. I don’t want to hear—and I’ll turn it into good. But let me give you the bad, the sad news. Moments ago, I learned that a district judge in Hawaii—part of the much-overturned Ninth Circuit Court—and I have to be nice; otherwise, I’ll get criticized for speaking poorly about our courts. I’ll be criticized by these people, among the most dishonest people in the world—I will be criticized—I’ll be criticized by them for speaking harshly about our courts. I would never want to do that. A judge has just blocked our executive order on travel and refugees coming into our country from certain countries.


February 16, 2017

President Trump in a White House press conference:

The court system has not made it easy for us. And are even creating a new office in Homeland Security dedicated to the forgotten American victims of illegal immigrant violence, which there are many. We have taken decisive action to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of our country. No parts are necessary and constitutional actions were blocked by judges, in my opinion, incorrect, and unsafe ruling. Our administration is working night and day to keep you safe, including reporters safe. And is vigorously defending this lawful order.

February 12, 2017

February 12, 2017

White House advisor Stephen Miller on CBS’s Face the Nation:

MILLER: Well, I think that 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 case [sic] a supreme branch of government. One unelected judge in Seattle cannot remake laws for the entire country. I mean this is just crazy, John, the idea that you have a judge in Seattle say that a foreign national living in Libya has an effective right to enter the United States is — is — is beyond anything we’ve ever seen before.

The end result of this, though, is that our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.


February 12, 2017

White House advisor Stephen Miller on NBC’s Meet the Press:

Well we’re considering all of our options right now Chuck. That includes: you can continue the appeal in the ninth. You can seek an emergency stay at the Supreme Court. You can have a trial hearing on the merits at the district level. Or you can take in en banc for the emergency hearing also at the ninth circuit and yes, you could pursue additional executive actions. The bottom line is that we are pursuing every single possible action to keep our country safe from terrorism and I also want to be clear we’ve heard a lot of talk about how all the branches of government are equal. That’s the point. They are equal. There’s no such thing as judicial supremacy. What the judges did, both at the ninth and at the district level was to take power for themselves that belongs squarely in the hands of the president of the United States.

February 12, 2017

White House advisor Stephen Miller on Fox News Sunday:

MILLER:  Right now, we are considering and pursuing all options.  Those options include seeking an emergency stay with the Supreme Court, continuing the appeal with the panel, having an emergency hearing en banc, or going to the trial court in the district level and a trial on the merits.  They also include, as you mentioned, the possibility of new executive actions designed to prevent terrorist infiltration of our country.

But I want to say something very clearly, and this is going to be very disappointing to the people protesting the president and the people in Congress like Senator Schumer who have attacked the president for his lawful and necessary action.  The president’s powers here are beyond question.  The president has the authority under the INA Section 8 U.S.C. 1182F to suspend the entry of aliens into this country.

February 11, 2017

February 8. 2017

February 8. 2017

White House advisor Stephen Miller on Sean Hannity:

MILLER: It is dishonest. It is false. And it is wrong. And I will also say this because we talked a lot about the issue of judicial activism.  Sean, an unelected judge does not have the right to remake the immigration laws and policies for the entire United States of America.

February 8, 2017

President Trump speaking to the Major Cities Chiefs Association’s 2017 winter conference:

“And it’s really incredible to me that we have a court case that’s going on so long. As you know, in Boston, we won it with a highly respected judge and a very strong opinion, but now we’re in an era that, let’s just say, they are interpreting things differently than probably 100 percent of the people in this room. I’d like to almost know, does anybody disagree when I read this.” “Okay.  So you can suspend, you can put restrictions, you can do whatever you want.  And this is for the security of the country — which, again, you’re the chiefs, you’re the sheriffs.  You understand this.  And I listened to lawyers on both sides last night, and they were talking about things that had just nothing to do with it.  I listened to a panel of judges, and I’ll comment on that — I will not comment on the statements made by certainly one judge.  But I have to be honest that if these judges wanted to, in my opinion, help the court in terms of respect for the court, they’d what they should be doing.  I mean, it’s so sad.” “And I don’t ever want to call a court biased…But courts seem to be so political…”

February 6, 2017

White House Communications Director Sean Spicer on Fox and Friends, via POLITICO:

“The law is very clear that the president has broad powers to keep this country safe and to limit access to people that could come in to this country and do us harm,” Spicer told Fox News in an interview conducted Sunday but broadcast Monday morning. “He utilized that power in a very legal, constitutional manner to ensure that we are safe, our people are safe, our country is safe, our institutions are safe. And it’s somewhat sad to see a judge go rogue like this.”

“It’s a shame,” Spicer continued, “that we’re not focused more on making sure that we’re applauding the decision by the president to make a renewed focus on keeping this country safe.”

February 5, 2017

February 5, 2017

February 4, 2017

February 4, 2017

February 4, 2017

February 4, 2017

February 4, 2017

September 26, 2016

Candidate Trump in a Presidential debate in response to a question by Lester Holt:

HOLT: Your two—your two minutes expired, but I do want to follow up. Stop-and-frisk was ruled unconstitutional in New York, because it largely singled out black and Hispanic young men.

TRUMP: No, you’re wrong. It went before a judge, who was a very against-police judge. It was taken away from her. And our mayor, our new mayor, refused to go forward with the case. They would have won an appeal. If you look at it, throughout the country, there are many places where it’s allowed.

June 8, 2016

Candidate Donald Trump in an interview with columnist Cal Thomas:

DT: Yes, the reason I bring up the (Trump University) lawsuit, because it is a lawsuit I am going to win. … I have thousands of students who loved the school and I’ve been treated very unfairly in that lawsuit. I don’t care if a judge is Mexican or what. What I care about is to be treated fairly. And the only reason I spent time on it is when they ask me a question, instead of saying I have no comment and then winning the case two years from now, I’d rather bring up parts of the case. For instance, you possibly didn’t know I have many thousands of letters saying the course was great. And people have actually been successful after they took the course. It’s worth my while to explain this because people then say, ‘Wow, I never knew that.’

June 7, 2016

Candidate Donald Trump’s statement on the Trump University lawsuit.

Due to what I believe are unfair and mistaken rulings in this case and the judge’s reported associations with certain professional organizations, questions were raised regarding the Obama-appointed judge’s impartiality. It is a fair question. I hope it is not the case.

June 3, 2016

Candidate Donald Trump in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper:

TAPPER:  Is it not, when Hillary Clinton says this is a racist attack and you reject that, if you are saying he can’t do his job because of his race, is that not the definition of racism?

TRUMP:  No, I don’t think so at all.


TRUMP:  No.  He’s proud of his heritage.  I — I respect him for that.

TAPPER:  But you’re saying he can’t do his job because of that.

TRUMP:  Look, he’s proud of his heritage, OK.  I’m building a wall.  Now, I think I’m going to do very well with Hispanics.

TAPPER:  He’s a legal citizen…

TRUMP:  You know why I’m going to do well with Hispanics?

Because I’m going to bring back jobs and they’re going to get jobs right now.  They’re going to get jobs.  I think I’m going to do very well with Hispanics.

But we’re building a wall.  He’s a Mexican.  We’re building a wall between here and Mexico.  The answer is, he is giving us very unfair rulings, rulings that people can’t even believe.  This case should have ended years ago on summary judgment.  The best lawyers — I have spoken to so many lawyers, they said this is not a case, this is a case that should have ended.

TAPPER:  I have…

TRUMP:  This judge is giving us unfair rulings.

Now I say why?

Well, I want to — I’m building a wall, OK, and it’s a wall between Mexico, not another country…

TAPPER:  But he’s not…


TAPPER:  — he’s not from Mexico.

TRUMP:  In my opinion…

TAPPER:  He’s for Indiana.

TRUMP:  — he is — his Mexican heritage.  And he’s very proud of it.

June 2, 2016

May 31, 2016

Candidate Donald Trump in a CNN segment:

DONALD TRUMP, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The judge has been very unfair, has not done a good job. He’s been a very bad judge. He’s been very unfair. And I’ll win the Trump University case. I already am, as far as I’m concerned, but I will win the Trump University case. This is — because I don’t care. Because you know what? Why antagonist? Because I don’t care. I have a judge that’s very, very unfair.

May 30, 2016

May 30, 2016

May 27, 2016

Candidate Donald Trump in a campaign rally in San Diego:

The trial, they wanted it to start while I am running for President. The trial is going to take place sometime in November. There should be no trial. This should have been dismissed on summary judgment easily. Everybody says it, but I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump. He’s a hater. His name is Gonzalo Curial. And he is not doing the right thing. I figure what the hell? Why not talk about it for two minutes. Should I talk about it? Yes? [cheers and applause] so we should have won. . . .

I am getting railroaded by a legal system, and frankly they should be ashamed. I will be here in November. Hey, if I win as president, it is a civil case. I could have settled this case numerous times. But I don’t want to settle cases when we are right. I don’t believe in it. When you start settling cases, do you know what happens? Everybody sues you because you get known as a settler. One thing about me, I am not known as the settler.

And people understand with this whole thing, with this whole deal with the lawyers, class action lawyers are the worst. It is a scam. Here is what happens. We are in front of a very hostile judge. The judge was appointed by by Barack Obama – federal judge. [Boos]. Frankly he should recuse himself. He has given us ruling after ruling, negative, negative, negative. I have a top lawyer who said he has never seen anything like this before. So what happens is we get sued. We have a Magistrate named William Gallo who truly hates us.

The good news is it is a jury trial. We can even get a fully jury. We are entitled to a jury, and we want a jury of 12 people. And you are going to watch. First of all, it should be dismissed. Watch how we win it as I have been treated unfairly. . . . So what happens is the judge, who happens to be, we believe Mexican, which is great. I think that is fine. You know what? I think the Mexicans are going to end up loving Donald Trump when I give all these jobs. I think they are going to love it. I think they are going to love me. . . .

A lot of people said before you run you should settle. I said I don’t care. The people understand it. And they use it. So when I have 10,000 people, and when we have mostly unbelievable reviews, how do you settle? And in fact, when the case started originally, I said how can I settle when I have a review like this? Now I should have settled, but I am glad I didn’t. I will be seeing you in November either as president. And I will say this. I have all these great reviews, but I will say this. I think Judge Curiel should be ashamed of himself. I think it is a disgrace he is doing this. I look forward to going before a jury, not this judge, and we will win that trial. We will win that trial. Check it out. Check it out, folks. You know, I tell this to people. November 28. I think it is scheduled for. It should not be a trial. It should be a summary judgment dismissal. . . .

It is a disgrace. It is a rigged system. I had a rigged system, except we won by so much. This court system, the judges in this court system, federal court. They ought to look into Judge Curiel because what Judge Curiel is doing is a total disgrace. Ok? But we will come back in November. Wouldn’t that be wild if I am president and come back and do a civil case? Where everybody likes it.

Ok. This is called life, folks. . . .

Video from the Washington Post:

March 21, 2016

Candidate Donald Trump in an interview with the Washington Post’s editorial board:

RYAN: Well, now, you’ve been a plaintiff in libel suits so you know a little bit of the elements …

TRUMP: I had one basic big libel suit, it was a very bad system, it was New Jersey. I had a great judge, the first one, and I was going to win it. And then I had another good judge, the second one, and then they kept switching judges. And the third one was a bad judge. That’s what happened. But, uh…

Video provided by the Washington Post:

February 28, 2016

Candidate Donald Trump in an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd on Meet the Press:

We have an A from the Better Business Bureau. This is a case that should’ve been– well, because of the wall and because of everything that’s going on with Mexico and all of that, I think it’s frankly, look, this is a judge who I believe has treated me very, very unfairly. This is a case that should have been thrown out a long time ago, in the opinion of many great lawyers.

February 27, 2016

Candidate Donald Trump in a campaign speech. Transcript provided by CNN.

The rest of it we’re doing very well. We have a very hostile judge because to be honest with you the judge should have thrown the case out on summary judgment but because it was me and because there’s a hostility toward me by the judge, tremendous hostility, beyond belief, I believe he happens to be Spanish, which is fine. He’s Hispanic, which is fine, and we haven’t asked for recusal which we may do but we have a judge who’s very hostile. Should have been thrown out.


Published December 19, 2017
Last updated December 19, 2017

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