Judges Question Religious 'Neutrality' of Trump's Revised Travel Ban

The Trump administration will name almost a dozen federal judges as nominees for key posts Monday as President Donald Trump works to pack the nation's federal courts with more conservative voices. He said the administration is not discriminating against any religion and has no intent to discriminate.

"I don't know where it ends", Niemeyer said in the hearing. The 9th Circuit is scheduled to hear another challenge to the revised travel ban next week.

The crucial next stage in the legal battle over Donald Trump's attempt to ban entry to the United States from several Muslim-majority countries was to begin yesterday. It restricted entry to the USA for people from six countries - Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen - for 90 days.

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. That's why it's a virtual certainty that the executive order banning travel to the USA from certain countries will end up before the Supreme Court.

But Judge Robert King, a Democratic appointee, noted that Trump has never retracted previous statements calling for a Muslim ban.

Judge Henry Floyd brought up comments from Trump and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and asked: "Is there anything other than willful blindness that would prevent us from getting behind those statements?" The tone of arguments was generally civil; Judge Paul Niemeyer did express frustration with American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Omar Jadwat when the judge felt that Jadwat was avoiding a direct answer to a question.

Assistant Solicitor General Jeff Wall told the 13 appeals court judges that they should look only at the words in the revised executive order, which makes no mention of religion. They concluded the hearing without issuing a ruling, which could takes weeks to finalize.

But other judges pushed back, suggesting that what candidate Trump said he meant to do during the campaign was relevant to what he actually did.

Judge Dennis Shedd asked why "the president, the executive branch, (was) not entitled to some deference" in concluding that a pause in travel from the six nations would reduce the threat of terrorism.

Several judges took it differently.

A U.S. District Court in Maryland agreed with them and put the order on hold on March 15, just a day before it was due to go into effect, triggering an appeal by the Justice Department.

A federal judge in Maryland who blocked the revised travel ban in March cited Trump's comments as evidence that the executive order is a realization of Trump's promised Muslim ban.

After that version was blocked by the courts, the president signed a new order which dropped Iraq from the list of suspended countries, exempted visa holders, and eased the language on Syrian refugees.

To that, one of the Fourth Circuit judges asked: "So the first order on anything is invalid?" "TRUMP STATEMENT ON PREVENTING MUSLIM IMMIGRATION" had disappeared by Monday afternoon.

But this is the same guy, Jadwat, who argued, with straight face, this: Trump's order is also invalid because it's "completed unprecedented". The original order was blocked by the 9th Circuit on February 9, dealing the Trump White House a major legal defeat in its third week on the job.

The other three appeals court nominees include Notre Dame Law School professor Amy Coney Barrett - another Scalia clerk - to the 7th Circuit, former Alabama Solicitor General Kevin Newsom to the 11th Circuit, and John Bush, a lawyer in private practice, to the 6th Circuit.

But Richard Primus, a professor of constitutional law at the University of MI law school, said he thinks the Supreme Court will ultimately hear the case no matter what the appeals courts decide.

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