An unannounced trip that Barack Obama took to Hawaii just days before a ruling from a Honolulu federal judge on Donald Trump’s new immigration restrictions has lead to accusations of improper meddling as observers noted that Obama at one point may have been within five minutes of U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson’s house.
On March 13, 2017, local Hawaiian news station KHON2 published pictures indicating that Barack and Michelle Obama had made an unannounced trip to Oahu after one of their viewers submitted photos of Obama at Buzz’s Original Steak House in Lanikai. The paper reported that Obama spent March 14th playing golf in at the Midway Golf Club in Kailua before joining “friends” in a private room at Noi Thai Cuisine at Royal Hawaiian Center for dinner. There was no information on the identity of the individuals Obama dined with. Online users have noted that the most direct path from Kailua to Noi Thai would have taken Obama within five minutes of Judge Watson’s residence.
The day after Obama’s Tuesday dinner in Honolulu, Derrick Watson issued a ruling which effectively stopped President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration from taking effect hours later. Observers immediately protested the ruling, noting that not only was Watson appointed to his position by Obama in 2014, they had both graduated from Harvard Law School in 1991.
Judge Watson’s 43-page ruling was issued a mere two hours after hearing arguments on whether or not the immigration ban should be blocked. This would have required Watson to write a page roughly every three minutes, raising questions about whether or not the judge had already made a decision before even hearing arguments from attorneys and had already drafted a ruling. The proximity of the judge to Obama on his vacation just days before the consequential hearing, their lengthy history together and facts indicating that the judge had prepared a ruling before the case even began raise questions about whether or not the former President exercised improper influence in the judge’s decision. Barack Obama’s representatives have yet to issue any comment on the matter.
Research for this article was provided by Kenneth Whittle of Loyola University New Orleans College of Law