1) A federal judge in California has just issued a sweeping ruling that puts a stay on key aspects of Trump’s executive order: His ruling holds that the government must now let into the country people with valid visas who are coming from the seven targeted countries and are looking to live here permanently.
2) The underlying legality of the executive order is now in serious doubt. As the judge’s ruling notes, this stay was issued because the underlying legal challenge to it is “likely to succeed on the merits.” Similarly, another federal judge who blocked the removal of detainees at an airport did so out of the belief that those detained and others like them have a “strong likelihood of success” in showing that their constitutional rights had been violated. As one ACLU lawyer put it: “Every court that has ruled on this has seen it as unconstitutional, so that is a strong sign that this is blatantly illegal.”
3) The executive order’s legal vulnerability, as well as widespread confusion about its legal application, may be traceable directly to the process overseen by Bannon and the White House team. Multiplereports have indicated that the Office of Legal Counsel may not have reviewed the executive order (which Bannon mostly wrote) before its release, leading legal observer Benjamin Wittes to remarkthat it reads as if “it wasn’t reviewed by competent counsel at all.” Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security initially determined that the order should not legally apply to green-card holders, but was overruled by Bannon — yet the White House subsequently reversed in part on that point.
4) In the face of widespread chaos created by the executive order’s lack of procedural clarity and confused implementation, Bannon has sought to convert the resulting outrage into proof that he is doing something right, reducing it to nothing more than frantic whining by media elites terrified of the rise of Bannon’s “new political order.” In other words, the Bannonite belief in disruption as an end in itself renders impossible any self-scrutiny or acknowledgment of error, in a kind of endless feedback loop (the consequences of which could become much more dire over time). And it is precisely the Bannonite contempt for procedural and institutional knowledge that is partly responsible for creating all of the logistical and legal problems to begin with.
5) The resulting mess and intensified media scrutiny of Bannon’s role has ripped the lid off the teeming, ugly reality of Trumpism. The White House has sought to employ comically contorted euphemisms to mask the reality of this executive order. The nonstop claims that this isn’t a ban meant to target Muslims is belied by the history of this proposal and by Trump’s own words about it, which leave little doubt that its intent is discriminatory. And White House press secretary Sean Spicer has taken to insisting that the order isn’t even a ban at all — arguing instead that it’s solely about improving vetting procedures — even though a ban is exactly what it is, and Trump himself described it in those terms.
Meanwhile, the White House’s efforts to recast this proposal as nondiscriminatory in intent — and only about improving vetting procedures — is undercut by new and intense media scrutiny of Bannon’s worldview. A Post report demonstrates that this worldview is driven primarily by a desire to dramatically restrict legal and illegal immigration and by the belief that the west is embroiled in a global war with “an expansionist Islamic ideology.” This has led Bannon to suggest about refugees: “Why even let ’em in?”
6) Even Republicans are acknowledging — and rejecting — the obvious clash-of-civilizations ideology underlying the executive order. Multiple Republicans have rejected the euphemisms offered by the White House and instead have cast it in exactly the terms that critics have — as something that risks sending a global message that the U.S. is at war with Islam. This suggests that even Republicans know that taking concrete steps to implement this aspect of Trumpism is politically untenable.
7) There are some signs that Trump himself is unhappy with the disruptions that Bannon has wrought. But that brings us to our next item.