U.S. appeals court weighs Trump’s travel ban after tough scrutiny

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By Roberta Rampton

<span class="articleLocation”>President Donald Trump stepped up his criticism
of the U.S. judiciary on Wednesday, saying courts seem to be “so
political,” a day after his U.S. travel ban on people from seven
Muslim-majority countries faced close scrutiny from an appeals
court.

A three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S.
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. Trump on Saturday accused the
judge who issued the order of opening the United States to “potential terrorists.”

The appeals court is expected to issue a ruling as soon as
Wednesday.

“I don’t ever want to call a court biased,” Trump told
hundreds of police chiefs and sheriffs from major cities at a
meeting in a Washington hotel. “So I won’t call it biased. And
we haven’t had a decision yet. But courts seem to be so
political. And it would be so great for our justice system if
they would be able to read the statement and do what’s right.”

“I think it’s a sad day. I think our security’s at risk
today.”

The appeals court must decide whether Trump acted within his
authority or violated the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on
laws favoring one religion over another, as well as
anti-discrimination laws, and was tantamount to a discriminatory
ban targeting Muslims.

The 9th Circuit is expected to decide the narrow question of
whether a lower court judge acted properly in temporarily
halting enforcement of the president’s order. While the court
could take into account the strength of the arguments on both
sides, this is just a first step in a fast-moving case.

The appeals court judges questioned whether the directive
improperly targeted people because of their religion.

Trump’s Jan. 27 order barred travelers from Iran, Iraq,
Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering for 90 days
and all refugees for 120 days, except those from civil war-torn
Syria, whom he would ban indefinitely.

“DO WHAT THEY SHOULD”

Trump, a Republican who took office on Jan. 20 and has made
extensive use of unilateral presidential directives that bypass
Congress, has defended the directive as necessary to prevent
attacks by Islamist militants.

“If these judges wanted to, in my opinion, help the court in
terms of respect for the court, they’d do what they should be
doing,” he told the law enforcement officials.

Trump praised a federal judge in Boston who earlier ruled in
his favor on the travel ban as a “highly respected” jurist whose
findings were “perfect.”

Trump on Saturday labeled U.S. District Judge James Robart
of Seattle, who put his directive on hold last Friday, as a “so-called judge” who made a “ridiculous” ruling. Robart was
appointed to the bench by Republican President George W. Bush.

Last year, Trump accused Indiana-born U.S. District Court
Judge Gonzalo Curiel of bias in overseeing a lawsuit against one
of Trump’s businesses, Trump University, because of his Mexican
heritage.

Democrats and other critics have called Trump’s comments
toward the judiciary an attack on a core principle of American
democracy that the courts are independent and uphold the rule of
law. Under the Constitution, the judiciary is a co-equal branch
of the U.S. government, along with Congress and the president’s
executive branch.

At the meeting with law enforcement officials, Trump read
from the law he cited to justify the travel ban, quoting it in
fragments and sprinkling bits of interpretation. He said the law
clearly allowed a president to suspend entry of any class of
people if he determines them to be a detriment to national
security.

“A bad high school student would understand this,” Trump
said. “Anybody would understand this.”

“SECURITY AND SAFETY”

In a Twitter post earlier on Wednesday, Trump wrote, “If the
U.S. does not win this case as it so obviously should, we can
never have the security and safety to which we are entitled.
Politics!”

U.S. State Department figures showed that 480 refugees have
been admitted to the United States since Robart’s order went
into effect, including 168 on Wednesday. Of those admitted, 198
were from war-torn Syria.

During an oral argument lasting more than an hour on
Tuesday, the appeals court panel in San Francisco pressed an
administration lawyer over whether the Trump administration’s
national security argument was backed by evidence that people
from the seven countries posed a danger.

Judge Richard Clifton, also appointed to the bench by Bush,
posed equally tough questions for a lawyer representing
Minnesota and Washington states, which are challenging the ban.

The order, the most divisive act of Trump’s young
presidency, sparked protests and chaos at U.S. and overseas
airports.

Ultimately the matter is likely to go to the U.S. Supreme
Court, which is ideologically split with four liberal justices
and four conservatives pending Senate action on Trump’s
nomination of conservative appellate judge Neil Gorsuch to fill
a lingering vacancy on the high court.

(Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu, Susan Heavy and David
Shepardson in Washington)



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