Court dubious of government arguments on Trump’s travel ban

A federal appeals court panel is expected to rule soon on the executive order barring refugees and visitors from seven Muslim countries.

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A federal appeals court panel is expected to rule soon on the executive order barring refugees and visitors from seven Muslim countries.

The Justice Department struggled to convince a federal appeals court Tuesday to allow the federal government to resume enforcement of President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban executive order.

The Trump administration had hoped to persuade the appeals court to stay the entirety of a Seattle federal judge’s order blocking key parts of President Donald Trump’s Jan. 27 directive blocking all refugee admissions and suspending travel to the U.S. from seven majority-Muslim countries.

However, the three 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges hearing the issue were skeptical enough of the government’s case that Justice Department attorney August Flentje repeatedly raised a fallback option that the appeals court rein in the Seattle judge’s order without lifting it altogether.

After claiming that the courts should have little or no role in reviewing Trump’s decision, Flentje quickly found himself on the defensive as two 9th Circuit judges pressed him on the potentially stark implications of that position.

“Could the president simply say in the order we’re not going to let any Muslims in?” asked Judge William Canby Jr., an appointee of President Jimmy Carter.

“That’s not what the order does here,” Flentje replied.

“Oh, I know. Could he do that?” Canby asked again.

When the federal government lawyer again demurred, Judge Richard Clifton jumped in.

“We’d like to get an answer to that question,” declared Clifton, an appointee of President George W. Bush.

“This is a far cry from that situation,” Flentje replied, eventually conceding that there might be some claims that could be pursued in those circumstances.

At that point, the Justice Department attorney seemed to change tack. “I’m not sure I’m convincing the court,” he said, before arguing that the order issued Friday by U.S. District Court Judge James Robart was overbroad and should — at a minimum — be narrowed.

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