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Travel ban judges scrutinize Trump's Muslim statements

16 May 2017

In his 30-minute oral argument, Wall said the president's executive order signed on March 6, which bars nationals of Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the United States for 90 days, has nothing to do with his statements about Muslims on campaign trails past year.

On Monday, it was the turn of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to explore the revised version of the Trump order - the same court that refused in February to let the president and his aides enforce the original version after ruling that it was likely to be struck down as an unconstitutional attack on the Muslim religion.

Spicer said Monday the executive order is fully lawful.

Spicer did not address why Trump hasn't disavowed his calls during the campaign for a ban on Muslims entering the country.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld that executive order in a challenge brought by California resident Fred Korematsu.

Trump's travel ban - key sections of which have been frozen by two courts - tried to temporarily shut down the USA refugee program and suspend the issuance of new visas to residents of six Muslim-majority countries.

Trump then wrote that the circuit had a "terrible record of being overturned" - a claim that is highly debatable - and he said later that he had "absolutely" considered breaking up the court.

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A federal appeals court judge is questioning a lawyer for Hawaii about past cases in which he argued that the president has broad authority over immigration matters.

In a legal twist, the lawyer for Hawaii, Neal Katyal, was acting solicitor general in the Obama administration when his office formally confessed error in 2011 for the role lawyers for the federal government played in defending the World War II camps. "But how is the court to know if in fact it's a Muslim ban in the guise of a national security justification?" As the debate unfolded, supporters of immigrants and refugees rallied outside the Seattle courthouse, chanting and carrying "No Ban, No Wall" signs, The Associated Press reports.

"Over time the President clarified that what he was talking about were Islamic terrorist groups and the countries that shelter or sponsor them", said Jeffrey Wall, Acting Solicitor General for the U.S. Department of Justice.

After clerking for U.S. Supreme Court Judge Potter Stewart from 1974 to 1975, Gould joined the prominent law firm Perkins Coie, where he remained until his appointment to the bench.

"Even last month, the president said it's a lot easier for Muslims to immigrate than Christian refugees from the Middle East, and that he's 'going to be helping Christians, big league, '" Katyal said. It is not known when they will rule after the hearing today concluded.

Wall's insistence that the travel ban should be upheld because it is "neutral", without reference to Islam, drew pointed questions from Judge Richard Paez.

Monday's arguments marked the second time Trump's efforts to restrict immigration from certain Muslim-majority nations have reached the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit.

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The hearings are being broadcast live on C-SPAN and other cable news stations. Watson criticized what he called the "illogic" of the government's arguments and cited "significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus" behind the travel ban. 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.

Judge Ronald Gould says each side has been allotted 30 minutes but will be granted more if necessary, given the significance of the case. Neither U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland nor Watson in Hawaii bought the administration's reasoning that the ban is about national security.

A courtroom at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle is starting to fill up in advance of arguments over President Donald Trump's travel ban while protests were expected outside the building.

The revised executive order applies to visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall attempted to distinguish between Trump's words before his inauguration January 20, and his executive orders in the following weeks and months, in the Seattle courtroom.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia is considering a similar ruling.

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