Travel ban judges scrutinize Trump's Muslim statements

They focused in particular on remarks the president made during the presidential campaign.

They asked a lawyer for the state of Hawaii challenging the ban about whether the national security rationale spelled out in the president's executive order neutralized any claim that the travel ban was motivated by discrimination.

While the three-judge panel had tough questions for both sides, they grilled Trump's lawyer about whether the ban discriminates against Muslims. They pointed out that he argued the president has broad authority when it comes to immigration.

Katyal said his arguments had failed.

The travel ban would suspend the country's refugee program and temporarily put a hold on new visas for citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. They also questioned whether they could consider Trump's campaign statements, with one judge asking if there was anything other than "willful blindness" that would prevent them from doing so.

Monday's hearing was again before a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit, which Trump has complained about before on Twitter, accusing the San Francisco-based circuit of having a "terrible record".

An executive order issued by President Franklin Roosevelt that led to the internment of 110,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II similarly was couched as a necessity for national security and made no reference to residents of Japanese heritage, Paez noted.

Attorney Neal Katyal argues the case for Hawaii before a panel of federal appeals judges.

The Ninth Circuit ruled against the Trump administration's original travel ban back in February, keeping a lower court's nationwide injunction against it in place.

Wall responded that Trump's order is nothing like that, and if it were, he wouldn't be defending it before the court.

Wall, however, argues the president's policy is not a "Muslim ban", but rather Trump's good faith effort to protect rights while securing the homeland from foreign terrorists.

A federal appeals court is set to hear arguments on Monday over President Donald Trump's temporary travel ban on people entering the United States from six Muslim-majority countries, the second such court to review Trump's directive over the past week.


Various lower courts, however, have ruled that the ban was created to discriminate against Muslims, citing Trump's divisive comments from the stump as evidence.

Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall, representing the Trump administration, called on the judges not to delve into a "wide ranging inquiry into subjective motivation" in considering Trump's past comments on Muslims, because "the (executive) order on its face doesn't have anything to do with religion and in operation doesn't distinguish on the basis of religion".

The hearings are being broadcast live on C-SPAN and other cable news stations. In that event, the White House might have to rethink the outlines of an order to carry out one of Donald Trump's signature promises as a candidate and as president.

"Yes. Over time, he clarified he meant Islamic terror groups", Wall said.

Dozens of activists gathered Monday morning, some carrying "No Ban, No Wall" signs.

The Justice Department separately appealed a different federal judge's decision to halt the 90-day travel ban to the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to have the final say over the order.

Three judges appointed by former President Bill Clinton - Michael Hawkins, Ronald Gould and Richard Paez - are due to hear arguments over whether to uphold a Hawaii judge's decision to block the ban in March.

Trump's attempted travel bans have caused the number of refugees coming into the U.S.to plummet in the last two months, despite his executive orders largely being blocked in the courts.

In the second appeals court hearing in a week on President Trump's order seeking to limit immigration from the Mideast, the search went on again among judges on Monday for a way to decide the controversy narrowly.

As CNN notes, the administration appears to be hoping that there will be a conflict between the Ninth Circuit's decision and another pending decision on the same executive order from the Fourth Circuit, where a 13-judge panel heard arguments last week.


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