How federal courts have consistently been the check on Donald Trump’s power


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Wednesday’s dispatch: 5 Trump policies stymied by federal courts

A federal judge complicated congressional negotiations to protect recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program when he ruled Tuesday night that DACA cannot be suspended.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco said the government must continue to process applications to renew DACA status while lawsuits over the program’s future pend before the courts. The government does not, however, have to accept first-time DACA applicants, according to the ruling.

The ruling is a temporary victory for immigrant rights groups. But it doesn’t change the fact that President Donald Trump does have the power to end the DACA program. The court ruling only requires DACA function until litigation has played out. Still, the ruling will protect the 122 DACA recipients each day who are losing their legal ability to live and work in the United States, according to a Center for American Progress study. Those DACA recipients can now stay in the U.S. as legal battles work their way through the courts.

This judicial decision is the latest instance of a federal judges styming Trump’s agenda. Here’s a look at four other times his first-year initiatives were rolled back or forced to change by the courts.

1. Muslim ban: Trump’s first immigration order in January, which banned travel from several Muslim-majority countries, was swiftly thrown out by a federal court. That set off a protracted battle involving litigation and new orders that the administration hoped would be found legally compliant. The Supreme Court ultimately allowed the third iteration of the contentious ban to take effect in December.

2. Sanctuary cities: A policy issued by the Department of Justice to strip cities that protected undocumented immigrants from deportation of federal funding was struck down in November. The move effectively killed an executive order from Trump and protected some of America’s largest cities from being targeted by Congress to lose funding.

3. Environmental policies: Federal courts ruled multiple times in 2017 that Trump’s rollback of Obama-era energy and environmental policies was illegal. Court decisions have kept in place rules that lower greenhouse gas emissions from cars and prevent mercury contamination of water.

4. Transgender military ban: Multiple federal judges in 2017 ruled that Trump’s ban on transgender Americans serving in the military could not take effect. The Department of Defense allowed transgender individuals to being enrolling in the military on Jan. 1.

Today’s question: Have these rulings made you pay more attention to the power of the federal courts?

Please email us at with your thoughts.

Wednesday in Trump’s America:

DACA continued: In a 50-minute televised dialogue with Republicans and Democrats on Tuesday, Trump said he would “take the heat” to pass legislation that allows DACA recipients to remain in the United States. But he reiterated that bill must include funding for his border wall — a nonstarter for Democrats, who have the votes in the Senate to stymie such legislation.

Within hours of the meeting ending, lawmakers raised doubts about whether a bipartisan immigration deal could pass Congress.

The same day, it was reported that the administration may cut border security measures like surveillance, in order to pay for the wall.

Return of earmarks? Some Republicans signaled this week they are open to reinstating “earmarks” — congressional slang for funnelling federal funds to pet projects of lawmakers in their home state or district. Republicans ended earmarks in 2011 after a scandal sent a lobbyist and lawmaker to prison.

f’s book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.

Arpaio for Senate: The controversial former sheriff of Arizona’s largest county has announced he will run for Senate in 2018. Joe Arpaio, who in 2017 was pardoned of a criminal charge by Trump, said he is running to back Trump’s “Make America Great Again” agenda.

Gerrymandering: North Carolina’s congressional districts were again struck down as unconstitutional. Federal judges gave lawmakers two weeks to redraw the districts or face the appointment of an independent arbiter to redraw the congressional map. Republicans are planning to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Dossier investigation: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) released testimony Tuesday from Glenn Simpson, co-founder of Fusion GPS, which commissioned the creation of the now infamous Trump dossier. Simpson’s testimony showed the FBI was investigating alleged Trump-Russia ties before coming across the dossier — refuting a recent conservative theory that the dossier triggered the FBI investigation.

Also on the dossier front: Trump attorney Michael Cohen is suing BuzzFeed for defamation over the news organization’s decision to release the dossier publicly last January.

Russian influence: A new report by congressional Democrats highlights the scope of Russian interference in elections around the world. The report — with no Republicans signing on — recounts Russian activities in 19 European countries.

2020 watch: A raft of billionaires are eyeing running for the presidency as Democrats, independents and even Republicans. Politico detailed several you should watch.

No Florida drilling: After lobbying from Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, the Trump administration announced it will not allow oil and gas drilling off the Florida coastline. Democrats in California and New York now also want an exemption from the administration’s decision last week to reverse an Obama-era decision and open much of the Atlantic to drilling.

HHS nominee: Alex Azar, a former drug company CEO, appears headed for confirmation after his appearance before a Senate panel Tuesday. Azar has said he will lower drug prices if confirmed to run the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Azar boosted drug prices while at the helm of global pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Company.

Ivanka and #TimesUp: Ivanka Trump’s tweet in support of Oprah Winfrey’s celebrated Golden Globes speech confused critics, who said Trump must note the allegations of sexual misconduct against her father. “Great! You can make a lofty donation to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund that is available to support your father’s accusers.,” Alyssa Milano tweeted.

A group of Democratic women are planning on wearing black to Trump’s State of the Union address on Jan. 30 to show solidarity with sexual misconduct victims.

Chris Christie: The New Jersey governor delivered his State of the State address Tuesday as the most unpopular leader of the state in modern history.

Today’s MicBite:

One woman explains why she chose not to have children. And why she’s making a documentary about it. Click or tap below to watch.