Trump’s White House is for ‘states’ rights,’ except when it’s against them

Sean Spicer took three different positions on states’ rights in one press conference.

Sean Spicer, at Thursday’s White house daily briefing.CREDIT: MSNBC
Sean Spicer, at Thursday’s White house daily briefing.CREDIT: MSNBC

At Thursday’s White House daily press briefing, Sean Spicer criticized Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) for telling school superintendents and law enforcement officials in his state that they did not need to take it upon themselves to enforce federal immigration policies, even if Donald Trump’s Department of Homeland Security asks them to aid his crackdown on undocumented immigrants.

“The idea that Governor Malloy would not want the law followed, as enacted by Congress or by the Connecticut legislature in any fashion, seems to be concerning, right? Whether you’re a governor or mayor or the president, laws are passed in this country and we expect people and our lawmakers and law enforcement agencies to follow and adhere to the laws as passed by the appropriate level of government,” Spicer observed. “It’s troubling that that’s the message he would send to his people and to other governors, because we are a nation of laws,” noting that this includes Connecticut laws and federal legislation.

Federal immigration laws are the purview of the federal government and states have absolutely no constitutional obligation to enforce them.

But after dismissing the Tenth Amendment rights of states, literally in answering the very next question, Spicer argued that transgender students should not be guaranteed civil rights protections because it is a matter of “states rights.”


“It’s a states’ rights issue,” Spicer said, defending the Trump administration’s move to rescind guidance to schools that protected transgender kids and affirmed their right to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. “That’s entirely what [Trump] believes. That if a state wants to pass a law or rule or an organization wants to do something in compliance with the state law, that’s their right. It shouldn’t be the federal government getting in the way of this.”


The Obama administration issued guidance last May, asserting that Title IX’s protections on the basis of sex also protected transgender students.

Spicer noted that a conservative federal judge in Texas had blocked enforcement of the original guidance — an order he applied to the entire nation — claiming that this order came because procedures were “not properly followed” in issuing the guidance.

Zeke Miller of Time magazine pointed out later in the briefing that this reasoning is ironic, given that the White House has attacked other “so-called” judges (Trump’s own term) for enjoining his own Muslim ban. Spicer responded that this was different because “there was zero comment period” before the transgender protections — though there was also zero comment period before Trump’s unconstitutional executive order.

Finally, Spicer took yet another position on the rights of states, promising that Trump’s Department of Justice would be taking action against states that allow recreational marijuana.