Administration names likely judge nominees


In an extremely rare occurrence for the Fourth Circuit - which covers Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia - a panel of all 13 active and eligible judges heard the lawyers' arguments.

Meanwhile, a group of 12 state attorneys general and the governor of MS argued that the action is not a "pretext for religious discrimination" and should be allowed to take effect.

But Wall argued it's not the court's role to perform a psycho-analysis on the president, and doing so would set a risky precedent.

"The basic question in this case is whether the mountain of evidence that exists as to the improper motive is going to be looked at by this court or swept under the rug", Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, said before the hearing. This claim was challenged by the Fourth Circuit's Judge Paul Niemeyer.

Wall also insisted that despite the fact the countries subject to the ban - Syria, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Sudan - have Muslim-majority populations, "this is not a Muslim ban".

If the administration prevails in both the Virginia and San Francisco cases, the USA will be free to temporarily halt issuance of visas to people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Judge James A. Wynn Jr. questioned whether there has ever been a case where a president made such definitive and specific statements during a campaign and then issued an executive order that appeared to implement those statement without explicitly doing so.

Lawyers for the government argue the ban is necessary for USA security plaintiffs - several refugee rights groups - say the order amounts to a "Muslim ban", something Trump talked about repeatedly when he was running for president.

District Court Judge Theodore Chuang said that the travel ban likely violates the Constitution by disfavouring Muslims, and the the Justice Department appealed that decision in March.

There also were several references during arguments to a statement on Trump's campaign website calling for a Muslim ban, which was taken down on Monday.

The administration argues that the court shouldn't question the president's national security decisions based on campaign statements.

Jeffrey Wall, the acting solicitor general, representing the Trump administration, argued that the executive order had a legitimate national security goal, allowing the government to assess the reliability of background information on visa applicants from six countries associated with terrorism. Judges on the appeals court struggled with whether to take Mr Trump's past statements into account when considering the constitutionality of the travel ban.

"This is not a Muslim ban", Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall, told the court during a two-hour hearing.

The original statement even had a quote attributed to then-candidate Trump, in which he said, "Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the risky threat it poses, our country can not be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life". The revised order was also blocked by courts in Maryland and Hawaii after judges found grounds for constitutional violations.

Jadwat said none of that mattered given the history of Trump's views in this case.

The argument that the ban is purely secular has not fared well with judges when the Trump campaign website stated in advance that its goal was "preventing Muslim immigration", which has sounded to a number of courts like an unconstitutional religion-based restriction. Central to both of these cases are public remarks made by Trump and members of his administration during the 2016 election and after his victory, which lawyers argue demonstrate the travel ban is created to explicitly target Muslims and therefore violates the religious protection provisions of the U.S. constitution. Most initial hearings are held before three-judge panels. The court is examining a ruling that blocks the administr. He said Trump was merely seeking "a brief opportunity to assure that the protections are sufficient", and that the legality of his order shouldn't be "based on what we think was in the head of the president".