White House asks federal court to restore travel ban

Delia Watkins
February 9, 2017

The court may then decide to keep the restraining order in place, or vacate the order, which would be a victory for the president.

A three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday heard arguments on the Trump administration's challenge to a lower court order putting his temporary travel ban on hold. GeekWire will also be live blogging the hearing.

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Trump seems intent on precipitating a constitutional crisis.

No matter how the appeals court rules, the case ultimately could end up in front of the Supreme Court. That court remains short-handed and could deadlock.

If the case does end up before the Supreme Court, it could prove hard to find the necessary five votes to undo a lower court order.

Trump says the 90-day travel ban on citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, and a 120-day bar on all refugees, are necessary to protect the United States from Islamist militants.

August Flentje, the Justice Department lawyer arguing the appeal, replied by citing "findings" written into the order by Trump's aides-for example, "that numerous foreign-born individuals have been convicted or implicated in crimes since September 11". Another time, pressed for an answer on whether a president's decision is unreviewable, Flentje answered "yes".

Flentje said he wasn't denying the statements were made. Washington state and Minnesota sued the Trump administration over the ban and sought a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to stop its implementation until it could be litigated. The appeals court heard arguments Tuesday on the executive order. The Solicitor General for the state of Washington [official website] argued against the order, stating that it has caused irreparable harm to the state of Washington.

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Flentje said it was a "fast-moving case" and could not provide evidence - despite the fact that it was his team that called the emergency hearing.

Flentje said a number of Somalis in the United States have been connected to the al-Shabab terrorist group.

He wrote in his ruling: "The executive order adversely affects the state's residents in areas of employment, education, business, family relations and freedom to travel".

"The president is asking this court to abdicate that role here", Purcell said, reported Reuters.

"A bad high school student would understand this". Robart added that the order also harmed the state's public universities and tax base: "These harms are significant and ongoing". Critics have called it a "Muslim ban" that puts thousands of refugees at risk. "That is imminently different from a complete ban", Purcell said.

The Justice Department counters by saying that a federal law explicitly gives the president the authority, in the words of the statute, "to suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens" for national security purposes. "That's what the president did here".

Trump, meanwhile, mocked Robart, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, calling him a "so-called judge" whose "ridiculous" ruling "will be overturned".

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