Hawaii's Democratic lawmakers on Thursday criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions criticized the decision to block President Donald Trump executive order on immigration for terror and national security-related reasons.
"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," Sessions said.
US Sen. Mazie Hirono responded on Twitter, saying Hawaii has been a U.S. state for 58 years.
The senator claimed later in a telephone interview the remarks showed a lack of awareness about the separation of powers between the judiciary and executive branches.
US District Judge Derrick Watson last month blocked President Donald Trump's executive order prohibiting new visas for people from six countries and temporarily halting the US refugee program. The Trump Administration appealed the ruling.
Sessions told the Mark Levin Show he's confident the president will prevail with his administration's appeal of Watson's travel ban ruling.
Hirono also claimed Sessions' remarks suggested he is prejudiced against Hawaii.
U.S. Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior said that Sessions was questioning one judge's ability to block the president's executive order for the travel pause.
"Hawaii is, in fact, an island in the Pacific, a beautiful one where the Attorney General's granddaughter was born," Prior said. "The point, however, is that there is a problem when a flawed opinion by a single judge can block the President's lawful exercise of authority to keep the entire country safe." Referring to US Code Section 1182, giving clear authority to the President to "suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate" for "such period as he shall deem necessary".
Douglas Chin, Hawaii's attorney general, said in a statement it was disappointing Sessions doesn't acknowledge that the federal courts are "co-equal partners with Congress and the president." A clerk for the US District Court in Hawaii said Watson declined to comment.