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Trump's Criticism Of Judges Is Shameful, Former Reagan Official Says

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep in Washington, D.C. with a critique of President Trump's critique of a federal judge. The president lashed out over the weekend at the judge who blocked his travel ban for refugees and visitors from seven nations. Vice President Mike Pence defended the president over the weekend on NBC's "Meet The Press."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MEET THE PRESS")

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: The president of the United States has every right to criticize the other two branches of government. And we have a long tradition of that in this country.

INSKEEP: Pence went on to call the president's comments refreshing. That is not exactly how Charles Fried sees it all. He was solicitor general for President Reagan, which made him in effect the government's lawyer charged with defending the United States before the Supreme Court. He is now a critic of President Trump. He teaches constitutional law at Harvard. And we asked how he felt about the president's attacks.

CHARLES FRIED: Judges can be criticized. That's fine. It is the way in which they're criticized, and the way in which this man chooses to criticize them is indecent, disrespectful and casts shame on the office of the president and unfortunately therefore on all of us.

INSKEEP: Now, when President Trump says if anything happens as a result of this, and I gather he means if someone dangerous got into the country and did something terrible, it's the judge's fault and the fault of the court system. Do you agree it would be the judge's fault if that were to happen?

FRIED: No. If that were to happen, it would be the fault of the law because the judge would have determined that the law requires this. And to attempt to intimidate and to somehow scare the judges into doing something other than following their best view of the law is disrespect for the rule of law.

INSKEEP: What about the executive order itself? Speaking as someone who was the government's lawyer once upon a time, the solicitor general, is the president exceeding his power by the way that this executive order was framed and executed?

FRIED: Well, you say the way. It was sloppy. It was not vetted through the channels which would have prevented that sloppiness and frankly, the impression of a government that doesn't know what it's doing. But the substance of the order, I think it's quite possible that the president will prevail on the merits, but that's another matter.

INSKEEP: How do you think your president, Ronald Reagan, would have handled this?

FRIED: Well, he was actually rather immigrant friendly. He was a humane person. And he was not a hater, that's famous about him. All sorts of people who disagreed with him had deep affection for him. I do not believe that's the case here. And that affection came from the fact that he didn't talk this way, and he didn't act this way.

INSKEEP: Charles Fried, thanks very much.

FRIED: It's a great pleasure. Thank you.

INSKEEP: He was solicitor general of the United States under President Reagan.

(SOUNDBITE OF PORTICO QUARTET SONG, "CLIPPER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.