Trump's Muslim comments could haunt him in travel ban appeal

Acting U.S. Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall argued in a federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia on Monday that President Donald Trumps travel ban executive order was about national security, not discriminating against Muslims. "TRUMP STATEMENT ON PREVENTING MUSLIM IMMIGRATION" had disappeared by Monday afternoon.

If the administration loses in either of the appeals courts, its lawyers are likely to appeal to the Supreme Court. Like a previous injunction imposed by a federal court in Hawaii, the Maryland ruling sprang from the determination that the ban violates Constitutional protections on religious freedom, an issue that once again took center stage in the Richmond court.

"It really is about 200 million people caught in this net when you add up these six countries", Keenan said.

The Trump administration has named the first slate of judges and other law professionals it plans to nominate for key posts as President Donald Trump works to pack the nation's federal courts with more conservative voices.

The revised travel ban was challenged in Maryland by refugee organizations and individuals who said they were being discriminated against because they were Muslim. The hearing in Virginia, before the fourth circuit of appeals, will occur in front of all 15 serving judges on the court, underlining the exceptional nature of the case.

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President Trump's original travel order, issued seven days after the inauguration, was blocked by court rulings. He also argued that "Trump wasn't talking about Muslims all over the world; that's why this isn't a Muslim ban".

Judge Robert King referred to a page on Trump's website as evidence that he's never "repudiated what he said" about wanting to ban Muslims from traveling into the U.S. The Constitution's Establishment clause prohibits the government from giving preference to one religion over another. Judge Henry Floyd asked Wall if there was "anything other than willful blindness" that could prevent the court from interpreting Trump's prior remarks in connection with the revised order.

Jadwat claims the administration has failed to provide a legitimate national security reason for the policy.

The judges did not immediately issue a decision on Monday, and their often tough questions offered no hint as to how they will rule.

"We can not fault the president for being politically incorrect, but we do fault him for being constitutionally incorrect", the attorney general had said.

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The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrestled Monday with whether the court should look beyond the text of the executive order to comments made by Trump and his aides on the campaign trail and after his election in order to determine whether the policy illegally targets Muslims. In a room of rich green carpet, great hanging chandeliers, and dark wood, the Fourth Circuit prepared to listen to a lawyer from the government argue with the ACLU's Omar Jadwat about the Muslim ban.

"I gather you would have no problem with that, right?"

Jadwat replied that there could be a challenge if increased scrutiny amounted to a ban. Judges should have no trouble concluding such an order would be illegitimate and unconstitutional, he said.

If the administration prevails in both the Virginia and San Francisco cases, the US will be free to temporarily halt issuance of visas to people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. If Trump loses in either court, the travel order will remain frozen for now, as the parties fight over Trump's motivation or if the Supreme Court weighs in. Arguments in the Hawaii case will be heard by a panel of three federal appeals court judges at the ninth circuit next week.

The White House originally said the 90-day ban would be put in place while a review was under way of the vetting process for travelers from those countries. "I just don't know where this stops".

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