Judges hit Trump lawyer with tough questions over revised travel ban

Michael Daly Hawkins

President Donald Trump has nominated Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice David Stras to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Chuang, in Maryland, blocked the part of Trump's order relating to travel by people from the six countries.

Judges in Maryland and Hawaii had previously halted implementation of the order, specifically citing Trump's past statements while he was on the campaign trail.

The administration asked a federal appeals court Monday to look beyond President Trump's campaign statements about Muslims and defer to his judgments as president, hoping to revive his executive order on refugees and travelers from six majority-Muslim countries.

King said the government and the challengers, with their opposite views of the importance of Trump's campaign statements, "are like ships in the night". He warned that despite the "heated and passionate political debate" about the ban, there was a need to be careful not to set legal precedent that would open the door to broader questioning of presidential decision making on security matters. "Its text doesn't have anything to do with religion".

Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall argued that the order was intended only to pause travel to allow an examination of vetting procedures.

Wall argued that the validity of Trump's order should be based on its text alone, while the American Civil Liberties Union says the president's comments show his animus toward Muslims. However, judges accelerated the process Monday by having the case heard by the full court - instead of just three judges it typically assigns to hear initial arguments.

"The order is completely unprecedented in our nation's history", Jadwat said.

"Is there anything other than willful blindness that would prevent us from getting behind those statements?" asked Judge Henry Floyd.

SIEGEL: So that's a sense of what you could glean from what the judges made of all this based on what they said in court today. The administration also maintained that the travel and refugee ban was necessary to fight terrorism.

But Judge Barbara Milano Keenan said that could mean a candidate for president could call for a Muslim ban every day for a year, enact a cleverly worded plan that accomplished that on his first day in office, and have courts ignore whether targeting Muslims was his real objective.

The last, Chief Judge Roger Gregory, was a recess appointment made by President Bill Clinton.

The new ban excluded Iraq and dropped directives for preferential treatment for religious minorities seeking refugee status in the US. Since Trump has assumed office, however, he and his allies have tried to couch their desires in more religiously neutral language, as several federal judges who have reviewed the executive orders implementing Trump's euphemistically relabeled "extreme vetting" policy have remained unpersuaded. Federal judges stepped in to block the order, partly because it included legal permanent residents, who have rights under the U.S. Constitution.

Yates replied back in a snap: "Well, I was the attorney general of the United States".

Attorneys for the president likely see the moderate 4th Circuit as friendlier territory than the 9th Circuit, which conservatives have long accused of being too liberal.

The attorneys general of Washington and Minnesota, who sued to block Trump's order in February, even used the December 2015 statement as evidence that the travel ban is meant to target Muslims.

The Trump administration's challenge to Watson's ruling will be heard by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle next Monday. A source familiar with the case told CNN that Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III - a Reagan appointee and one of the most highly respected judges on the court - recused himself from the case because Wall is his son-in-law as well as his former law clerk.