Pro-President Donald Trump outlets and “alt-right” outlets pushed a conspiracy theory that former President Barack Obama was the reason a federal judge in Hawaii blocked Trump’s revised Muslim ban executive order. The president’s son Donald Trump Jr. retweeted the claim, which seems to have originally spread on Reddit. The conspiracy is yet another variation of right-wing media’s theory that Obama is running a “shadow government.”
Federal Judge In Hawaii Blocks Trump’s Revised Muslim Ban
Federal Judge In Hawaii Freezes Trump’s Revised Muslim Ban. U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson issued a “sweeping freeze” of President Donald Trump’s revised Muslim ban hours before it “would have temporarily barred the issuance of new visas to citizens of six Muslim-majority countries,” according to The Washington Post. In his decision, Watson, who serves as a judge in Hawaii, “pointed to Trump’s own comments and those of his close advisers as evidence that his order was meant to discriminate against Muslims.” From the March 16 article:
A federal judge in Hawaii on Wednesday issued a sweeping freeze of President Trump’s new executive order hours before it would have temporarily barred the issuance of new visas to citizens of six Muslim-majority countries and suspended the admission of new refugees.
In a blistering 43-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson pointed to Trump’s own comments and those of his close advisers as evidence that his order was meant to discriminate against Muslims and declared there was a “strong likelihood of success” that those suing would prove the directive violated the Constitution.
Watson declared that “a reasonable, objective observer — enlightened by the specific historical context, contemporaneous public statements, and specific sequence of events leading to its issuance — would conclude that the Executive Order was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion.” [The Washington Post, 3/16/17]
Obama Returns To His Home State Of Hawaii. ABC News reported that former President Barack Obama returned to visit his home state of Hawaii the week of March 12. According to ABC, “Obama is believed to have arrived in Hawaii, where he was born, on Monday,” and was seen in the state during the week. [ABC News, 3/16/17]
Pro-Trump Media Figures Run With Conspiracy Theory From Reddit That Obama Was Behind The Muslim Ban Halt
Reddit: “Hawaii Judge Derrick Kahala Watson Graduated With Obama At Harvard Law In 1991. Obama Was Seen In Hawaii Yesterday. Really Makes You Think.” A March 15 Reddit post on the subreddit r/The_Donald read, “Hawaii Judge Derrick Kahala Watson graduated with Obama at Harvard Law in 1991. Obama was seen in Hawaii yesterday. Really makes you think.” The post also claimed that Obama was “about 30 minutes by car from the courthouse” and that Watson would have been “accessible” to Obama.
Freedom Daily: “It Appears As Though Obama’s Mysterious And Unannounced Trip To Hawaii Earlier This Week Was All To Drive The Knife Even Further Into President Trump’s Back.” Fake news purveyor Freedom Daily claimed that “Obama’s mysterious and unannounced trip to Hawaii earlier this week was all to drive the knife even further into President Trump’s back.” According to the piece, the ban was blocked “seemingly out of no where” after Obama “secretly met with [the] judge.” Freedom Daily added that Obama is “head[ing] up the anti-Trump resistance movement sweeping the nation” with his “malicious shadow government.” From the March 15 article:
Ever since Trump became president, Obama has been massively butthurt, causing chaos and disruption whenever he gets half a chance. We are constantly hearing more and more about Obama’s malicious shadow government, as he heads up the anti-Trump resistance movement sweeping the nation. Now it appears as though Obama’s mysterious and unannounced trip to Hawaii earlier this week was all to drive the knife even further into President Trump’s back.
Seemingly out of no where, a federal judge in Hawaii issued a nationwide order Wednesday evening blocking Trump’s travel ban, dealing a massive blow to the President Trump that has Obama and all his little minions cheering.
Infowars: “Coincidence? Obama Makes Surprise Visit To Hawaii 48 Hours Before Judge Blocks Trump Travel Ban.” In a piece titled, “Coincidence? Obama Makes Surprise Visit To Hawaii 48 Hours Before Judge Blocks Trump Travel Ban,” Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson claimed that Obama’s recent visit to Hawaii is “leading some to speculate that the former president may have schemed with the judge he originally appointed,” specifically crediting “eagle-eyed Reddit users” for “not[ing] that Obama had dinner … just minutes away from the courthouse.” Watson added that, given the timing of Obama’s visit, “it doesn’t take a wild-eyed conspiracy theorist to insinuate that the two could have met.” From the March 16 article:
A ruling by a federal judge in Hawaii that blocked President Donald Trump’s travel ban was announced less than 48 hours after Barack Obama made a surprise visit to Honolulu, leading some to speculate that the former president may have schemed with the judge he originally appointed.
Eagle-eyed Reddit users noted that Obama had dinner at the Noi Thai restaurant, which is just minutes away from the courthouse and that Obama was, “likely within 5 minutes of the judge’s house at one point on the drive over.”
Given that Obama appointed the judge, graduated in the same year as him and visited Honolulu and was within minutes of the judge less than 48 hours before Judge Watson made a major ruling that blocked Trump’s travel ban, it doesn’t take a wild-eyed conspiracy theorist to insinuate that the two could have met. [Infowars, 3/16/17]
The Gateway Pundit: “Obama Paid Surprise Visit to Hawaii 48 Hours Before Hawaii Judge Rules Against Trump Temporary Refugee Ban.” The Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft, in what he called a “SHADOW GOVERNMENT UPDATE,” wrote that Obama “paid a surprise visit to Honolulu, Hawaii on Monday just days before” Watson’s ruling. From the March 16 article (emphasis original):
SHADOW GOVERNMENT UPDATE–
Barack Obama paid a surprise visit to Honolulu, Hawaii on Monday just days before US District Court Judge Derrick Watson, who presides in Honolulu, ruled against President Trump’s temporary refugee ban from terror states.
Then on Wednesday President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban was put on hold by US District Court Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu, Hawaii after hearing arguments that the executive order discriminates on the basis of nationality. [The Gateway Pundit, 3/16/17]
IJR Published, Then Retracted, A Post “Point[ing] Out The Timing And The Opportunity” Presented By Obama Visiting Hawaii “Ahead Of A Controversial Court Ruling.” The Independent Journal Review (IJR) published a post noting that Obama “made a ‘surprise visit’” to Hawaii “just days ahead of a controversial ruling on President Trump's new travel ban executive order issued by a Hawaiian judge.” The article concluded, “This is not to allege the former president met with Judge Derrick Watson, but merely to point out the timing and the opportunity was there ahead of a controversial court ruling.” It was later updated with an editor’s note that said, “This story has been updated to remove unnecessary speculation about the timing of the visit,” and then eventually retracted completely. From the March 16 piece:
UPDATE: This story has been removed from IJR.com.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to remove unnecessary speculation about the timing of the visit. We apologize for any undue conclusions that might have been drawn from the report.
Former President Barack Obama made a “surprise visit” to Oahu this week, just days ahead of a controversial ruling on President Trump's new travel ban executive order issued by a Hawaiian judge.
The travel ban ruling, issued by U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson, was blasted by President Trump as a case of “unprecedented judicial overreach.” Watson is a former Harvard classmate of President Obama who was appointed under his administration in 2012.
This is not to allege the former president met with Judge Derrick Watson, but merely to point out the timing and the opportunity was there ahead of a controversial court ruling. [Independent Journal Review, 3/16/17]
Sean Hannity: Was Obama “Doing Weed And Maybe Even A Little Blow” With Judge Watson In Hawaii? Fox’s Sean Hannity on his radio show said that Watson “should have recused” himself from the case because he was one of Obama’s law school classmates, suggesting that the judge and Obama might have been “best friends in Hawaii” or “part of the Choom Gang” and could have been “doing a little bit of weed and maybe even a little blow.” From the March 16 edition of Premiere Radio Networks’ The Sean Hannity Show:
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): By the way, this judge who issued the travel ban ruling is an Obama law school classmate. Maybe he should have recused himself from the case. Just a maybe. Were they best friends in Hawaii? Were they part of the Choom Gang, smoking pot and hanging out and doing a little bit of weed and maybe a little blow? [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 3/16/17]
Donald Trump Jr. Retweets The Conspiracy Theory
Donald Trump Jr. Retweets “Federal Judge In HI Who Issued #Travelban Ruling Is Obama's Law School Classmate. But Nothing To See Here, Right?” Donald Trump Jr. retweeted a Twitter post from conservative radio host John Cardillo, who wrote, “Federal Judge in HI who issued #travelban ruling is Obama's law school classmate. But nothing to see here, right?”
Right-Wing Media Have Claimed Obama Is Leading A “Shadow Government” Against Trump
Right-Wing Media Have Pushed The Conspiracy Theory That Obama Leads A “Shadow Government” Against Trump. Right-wing media have been pushing the conspiracy theory that Obama is leading a secret “shadow government” in order to sabotage Trump, in part by organizing anti-Trump protests through his nonprofit Organizing for Action. Additionally, right-wing media figures have asserted that Obama’s former aides are working behind the scenes against Trump and his appointees still in the federal government are attempting to undermine the administration. The baseless conspiracy theory has since been invoked by Trump supporters, including Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA). [Media Matters, 2/14/17, 2/16/17, 3/3/17; PolitiFact, 3/14/17; The New York Times, 3/6/17, Snopes.com, 2/17/17]
Updated: This piece has been updated with additional information.