Washington State Attorney General Ferguson Recounts Suit Against Trump Administration

Rylee Neville, Staff Reporter

On Friday, April 13, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson visited Whitman to give a speech open to the public. Students, faculty, staff and Walla Walla community members gathered in Olin Auditorium that morning to hear Ferguson’s talk, titled “Challenging the President.”

Amara Garibyan
Washington State Attorney Bob Ferguson visited Whitman last Friday to speak about his experience filing a lawsuit against the Trump Administration in response to the executive order to ban travel to the United States from seven majority Muslin nations.

Ferguson has successfully fought against President Trump’s first executive order, which banned travel from seven majority Muslim nations. President Trump signed the executive order restricting travel from Muslim countries to the United States on Friday, January 27, 2017. Less than 12 hours later on Saturday morning, Ferguson and his team were at the office crafting arguments against the order. By Monday, the lawsuit against the travel ban was filed, and by Friday, Ferguson and his team went to court. 

In his talk, Ferguson told the story of how and why his team made Washington the first and only state to act against President Trump’s travel ban.

Ferguson noted that during the process of challenging the executive order, other states refused to join him in the lawsuit due to their own state’s political party affiliation. Majority red states did not want to engage in something that was not in line with their political values. There was a calculated risk involved by trying to file a heavy lawsuit such as this one as a single state. However, according to Ferguson, it was worth the risk.

“I trusted my team and I had a gut instinct to keep going. The travel ban had to be challenged, it seemed so un-American in so many ways,” Ferguson said. “If you want to win, you have to risk losing.”

The State of Washington anticipated the first executive order would be signed, so Ferguson and his team were ready to fight back as soon as it happened. Ferguson knew he had the resources to pull something like this off. 

“I knew there was zero chance of being out-lawyered,” he said. According to Ferguson, despite his competition with White House lawyers, he was confident in his talented team and the abundant availability of resources.

In court, the main argument against the State of Washington was related to how much lawyers can review the president’s decision making. The Trump administration wrote and argued in court that the president should have unreviewable authority to take this action. This means that the president’s action in issuing this executive order could not be reviewed by the federal courts. Ferguson was passionate about exposing what he saw as faults in this logic.

“Isn’t this a democracy?” Ferguson asked rhetorically.

If the president was allowed to create a law without being reviewed by other branches of government, according to Ferguson, it would go against “who we are as a people.”

Ferguson also noted how Trump’s executive order would affect students across the country, restricting those who travelled abroad to one of these Muslim majority countries from coming back home.

After the travel ban was stopped, Ferguson received thousands of letters filled with the personal stories of the individuals affected by his work. There was an eight-year-old girl from Iran who wrote a letter to Ferguson. In scratchy handwriting, this sentence was written in the bottom corner of the letter: “If you did not stand up, I would not be here.”

Since the State of Washington successfully blocked Trump’s first executive order, there have been 24 lawsuits filed against the Trump administration. Examples include cases related to environmental issues, net neutrality, student loans.

“We are doing well with these cases that we are bringing in and we are on the right track,” Ferguson said.

Five of the 24 cases are now closed and were decided in favor of the states filing the suits. According to Ferguson, the success in the case against the travel ban brought the confidence to be able to keep filing these lawsuits against laws made by the Trump administration.Amara Garibyan