WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump suffered a legal blow on Friday when a federal appeals court refused to reinstate his executive order temporarily banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.
A three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the Trump administration failed to offer any evidence that national security concerns justified immediately restoring the ban, which he imposed two weeks ago.
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Shortly after the court issued its 29-page ruling, Trump tweeted: “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!” He told reporters his administration ultimately would win the case and dismissed the ruling as ‘political’.
Trump’s government plans to fight back on multiple legal fronts. The White House is not ruling out the possibility of rewriting his January 27 order in light of the actions by a federal judge in Seattle and an appeals court in San Francisco putting the directive on hold, an administration official said.
“The administration is looking through all the options on how to move forward. But we’d like to win the case in court,” the official said.
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The 9th Circuit ruling, upholding last Friday’s decision by US District Judge James Robart to suspend the order, does not resolve the lawsuit. It relates only to whether to lift an emergency halt to Trump’s order put in place by a lower court.
Trump faces long odds in getting the ban restored while litigation over his executive order proceeds. To ultimately win, the Justice Department will have to present evidence that people from those countries represent a domestic threat, legal experts said. In its ruling on Friday, the 9th Circuit said the government had so far failed to show that any person from the seven countries had perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States.
Trump’s January 27 order, the most divisive action of his young presidency, sparked protests and chaos at U.S. and overseas airports on the weekend after it was issued. It was challenged by the states of Washington and Minnesota, which argued it violated constitutional protections against religious discrimination.
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The Justice Department, which spoke for the administration at oral argument on Tuesday, said it was reviewing Friday’s decision and considering its options. Asked about Trump’s tweet, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said: “We have seen him in court twice, and we’re two for two.”
Trump says his executive order aims to head off attacks by Islamist militants. He has voiced frustration at the legal challenge to his order, calling Robart a ‘so-called judge’ whose ‘ridiculous’ opinion “essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country.”
The 9th Circuit judges said more legal arguments would be needed to decide the actual fate of Trump’s order. While the court said it could not decide whether the order discriminated against a particular religion until the case had been ‘fully briefed’, it added that the states had presented evidence of ‘numerous statements’ by the president “about his intent to implement a ‘Muslim ban’.
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“The administration argued that the courts do not have access to the same classified information about threats to the country that the president does. The judges countered that “courts regularly receive classified information under seal.”
The three judges said the states had shown that even temporary reinstatement of the ban would cause harm.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 11th, 2017.