We're not even two months into Donald Trump's presidency, and his agenda is in deep trouble.
What was to be his most significant executive action — his immigration and travel "ban" aimed at refugees and people from several predominantly Muslim countries — was dealt another blow Wednesday night, when a federal judge blocked a revised version of it just hours before it was set to go into effect.
Unlike the first version of the order, which was hastily and sloppily drafted by the White House with little consultation from agencies before being blocked in the courts, the administration took its time with the "ban 2.0." The newer version was scaled back and carefully vetted, in an effort to withstand legal scrutiny.
That wasn't enough: Judge Derrick Watson issued a restraining order against it, writing that "a reasonable, objective observer" would conclude that it "was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion."
Trump's biggest problem here is that it's not clear that any changes to the order would be enough to win over Watson. That's because the ruling repeatedly cited statements that Trump and his close aides made in the past to make the case that the policy likely had religiously discriminatory intent — suggesting they're trapped by their own words.
'There is nothing "veiled" about this press release: "Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,"' Watson wrote.
Now, it's important to keep in mind that there have been no rulings on the "ban" on its merits yet. Watson writes that he thinks it's "likely" the government will lose when the case is fully argued, but that hasn't happened yet. And even if it does, other judges and courts could well come to different conclusions than him.
But Trump himself isn't exactly helping his team's case that the revised order is a completely different, and nondiscriminatory, policy implemented for security reasons.
At a rally in Nashville, the president called the new version "a watered down version of the first order," and proclaimed, "I think we ought to go back to the first one and go all the way, which is what I wanted to do in the first place!" You can expect to see those statements quoted in future rulings.