Federal judge asks, “Can I trust what the president says?” DOJ lawyer gives wrong answer

Judge Andrew Hanen, the federal judge who blocked President immigration executive action, suggested yesterday that he might order sanctions against the Justice Department if he rules that it misled him about when the administration began implementing one of its immigration measures. Judge Hanen is concerned that the Justice Department misled him into believing that a key part of Obama’s amnesty program would not be implemented before he made a ruling on a request for a preliminary injunction. It turns out that federal officials had given more than 108,000 people three-year reprieves from deportation before that date and had granted them work permits.

AP reports:

Hanen chided Justice Department attorney Kathleen Hartnett on Thursday for telling him at a January hearing before the injunction was issued that nothing would be happening with regard to one key part of Obama’s actions, an expansion of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, until Feb. 18.

“Like an idiot I believed that,” Hanen said.. . .

Hartnett continued to insist that the 108,081 reprieves had been granted under 2012 guidelines, which were not stopped by the injunction, and that government attorneys hadn’t properly explained this because they had been focused on other parts of the proposed action.

But Hanen pointed out that the 2012 guidelines only granted two-year reprieves and that three-year reprieves are being proposed under the program now on hold.

As noted above, the reprieves Judge Hanen complains about were three-year reprieves. Thus, Hartnett’s excuse does not appear to hold up.

The plaintiffs (states affected by Obama’s amnesty) argue that these reprieves might have caused the states economic harm because they may already have issued various benefits, including driver’s licenses, to immigrants who received a reprieve.

Harm or not, the DOJ’s misrepresentation to a federal judge raises serious concern. Judge Hanen asked Hartnett: “Can I trust what the president says? That’s a yes or no question.” She replied: “Yes your honor.”

It’s unfortunate that a judge would ever need to ask the question. In my opinion, the question all but answers itself, and not in the way Hartnett responded.

The plaintiffs seek sanctions against the Justice Department. They say it made “representations (that) proved not to be true or at a minimum less than forthcoming.”

This statement seems undeniable. In fact, according to the AP, Hartnett apologized repeatedly to the court.

Whether Judge Hanen awards sanctions will probably depend on whether he accepts Hartnett’s claim that any misstatements were the result of “confusion.” Judge Hanen said he would issue a ruling “promptly” on what action, if any, he will take against the Justice Department.

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