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Travel Ban Supporter Reacts To Supreme Court Decision To Uphold It

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The Supreme Court has upheld President Trump's travel ban restricting citizens of several countries from entering the United States. The vote was 5-4 along ideological lines in the court. The conservative majority prevailed. Now, this was the third version of a travel ban that grew out of President Trump's campaign promise to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. The court says this more limited version of the ban is based on legitimate national security purposes and that it came after a, quote, "worldwide review process by multiple cabinet agencies." The court says it will look beyond the policy at the president's statements but will uphold the policy so long as it can reasonably be understood to result from a justification independent of unconstitutional grounds. Let's talk about what this means with Congressman Bill Johnson. He's a Republican from Ohio and a supporter of the travel ban.

Congressman, good morning.

BILL JOHNSON: How are you, Steve? Good to be with you.

INSKEEP: What do you make of this decision?

JOHNSON: Well, I'm - you know, I think it's the right decision. I maintained at the beginning when this issue initially came up that this is the president's decision. I disagreed with the courts that set his decision aside because I believe under the Constitution, this falls squarely within the authority of the chief executive, the president. And I'm satisfied that the Supreme Court has sided with the Constitution and the rule of law, so I think it was the right decision for the Supreme Court to make.

INSKEEP: Well, let's talk about the meaning of this. We don't need to debate the law for the moment because the Supreme Court has given its judgment on what the law is, but there are also the facts, which the court acknowledged along the way. The president was very frank about his purpose. We don't need to speculate about his purpose. He wanted a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.

JOHNSON: Well, I don't think that that's true because...

INSKEEP: He literally said that.

JOHNSON: Well...

INSKEEP: That was his campaign promise.

JOHNSON: Well, no. What he said was those that wanted to do America harm - because if you look at the countries that were in the travel ban, that's a fraction of the Muslim population across the world. You know, it's only about 8 percent of the total Muslim population. If he wanted to ban all Muslims, it would've been a lot more countries included in that. And I think that's one of the misrepresentations of both the media and the liberal left that tried to undermine the president's authority. So I don't...

INSKEEP: Well, we should - we...

JOHNSON: I just don't believe that's true.

INSKEEP: I understand. I mean, we should be clear. The quote - and it's his quote, and he was reading from a piece of paper while on television. There's video. It's been shown thousands of times. He called for a total and complete shutdown of the entry of Muslims into the United States, quote, "until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on." The travel...

JOHNSON: And that's a reasonable thing...

INSKEEP: Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. The travel ban ended up being more limited than that. You're exactly correct, Congressman, although he said along the way, that's what we'll do, is make it more limited so that it's legal. But this is what he wanted to do.

JOHNSON: But, Steve, you wanted to talk about - you don't want to talk about the law because the Supreme Court has upheld the law.

INSKEEP: We'll get to that next.

JOHNSON: But you want to...

INSKEEP: No, we'll get to that next.

JOHNSON: But you want to change the conversation, Steve, to what the president said versus what the president did. What he did in the ban was a very - and it wasn't a ban. It was a pause. It was a very limited pause. There are 50 Muslim-majority countries in the world, and he only named five, ultimately, in the pause. So I agree with you that what the president said - and we always leave out - many leave out that last phrase - until I have or we have determined that it's safe to have them come in. So I don't buy this, that the president was trying to limit all Muslims from coming into the country because he would have done it very differently, had he tried to do that.

INSKEEP: Well, now that raises another interesting thing. This is a permanent ban that the Supreme Court has upheld, right? What do you think the effects are going to be of that?

JOHNSON: No. The president - what they have upheld is the president's authority. This is an executive order from the president, and his initial ban was - what? - for only 90 days.

INSKEEP: And now they've made it permanent. There's no time limit...

JOHNSON: No.

INSKEEP: ...On the one that's been upheld, I believe.

JOHNSON: Well, I haven't read the ruling by the Supreme Court. I've been busy this morning. So I will definitely take a look at that. But the one quote that I have from justice - Chief Justice Roberts is that this falls squarely within the scope of presidential authority. So that's essentially the ruling, Steve, is that this is a decision that the president can make or should make under the Constitution. And I maintained that when I was on your show last year when the ban was going in.

INSKEEP: Sure.

JOHNSON: And I also maintained that when I went on with Chris Matthews and some of the others that wanted to talk about this. There was already court cases, federal court cases that had determined that it is a presidential decision...

INSKEEP: Which...

JOHNSON: ...Under the Constitution to determine in instances like this who can come in our country and who cannot.

INSKEEP: Well, that is a correct reading of the majority's understanding of the law. The president has the authority to do this, is what they find.

JOHNSON: And I think that's what's important about this ruling today.

INSKEEP: And they find that - they found the justification by having the government look into it.

JOHNSON: Yeah, that's what important about the ruling.

INSKEEP: I'm curious how you think the country is safer because of the breadth of this. Of course, we understand the concern about terrorists from a place like Yemen, to give an example of a country that's on the list. But we also have done some reporting on this program and found that there were United States citizens - small children, toddlers, in some cases - who had fled the war in Yemen, and they can't get to the United States because the mother of that small child is not a citizen and was explicitly told, you can't travel because of the travel ban. Does the breadth of this order really make the United States safer?

JOHNSON: Absolutely, it does. Absolutely, it does. And that's the president's first and foremost responsibility - is to ensure the safety and security of the American people. And remember; he didn't say they would never be let in. He said, until they can be vetted and until they can be determined where they're coming from, why they want to come here in the first place. I mean, you know, we had the incident over in Ohio state where a Somali refugee attacked some people with a machete. You had the situation out in San Bernardino. We already know, Steve, that people are trying to come across our borders veiled as refugees to get across our borders to do American citizens harm.

INSKEEP: And we got to stop it there. Congressman Bill Johnson of Ohio, thanks very much for the time, appreciate it.

JOHNSON: Thanks so much, Steve. Bye-bye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.