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Opinion

Opinion: Words matter, US court tells Trump in welcome travel ban ruling

By blocking another travel ban, a US court show Donald Trump and his team that words matter, writes DW's Michael Knigge. The court's message was that Trump can't govern by insinuation and obfuscation.

That even a revised travel ban was stopped by a US court just hours before the executive order was to go into effect should give pause to US President Donald Trump and his inner circle. The ruling from the federal court in Hawaii indicates that even what a defiant President Trump in his first remarks after the ruling called a "watered down” version of the first botched travel ban, discriminates against Muslims and thus violates the constitution.

While the ruling did not explicitly mention Muslims, it held that "the Executive Order was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion," i.e. Muslims.

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Michael Knigge reports on transatlantic relations for DW

The court reached its conclusion not via the text of the order itself but by public statements made by President Trump himself as well as by top Trump aide Stephen Miller and by Trump advisor Rudy Giuliani.  Public remarks by the trio, according to the court, showed that the true intent behind the ban was, in fact, to discriminate against Muslims.

Ironically, Trump in his angry first remarks about the ruling did little to improve his future legal chances. Not only did he, as usual, attack the court's ruling as "unprecedented overreach," but he even mused about breaking it up. Indeed, his ranting about the ruling only added fodder to what many suspected all along - and what the Hawaii court concluded - namely, that the travel ban was a religious ban.  

Instead of attacking this "terrible" ruling and promising, as he has before, that his administration would go all the way to the Supreme Court and win, the president should have taken this second shot across the bow as a moment to reflect his and his administration's conduct.

The court's ruling offered a simple and important lesson for the president that is easily understood even to someone without a legal degree. It said that words matter and that efforts to try to obfuscate the real meaning of those words through legal rhetoric is unacceptable.

It is, therefore, welcome that a court shows a president and an administration that constantly engage in insinuation, obfuscation and disinformation that they are going to be held accountable for what they mean and they say.

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