Block on Trump's Asylum Ban Upheld by Supreme Court
As demonstrators rallied outside a Seattle courthouse broadcasting a live hearing inside, a panel of judges listened to arguments about whether they should consider President Trump's anti-Muslim statements in ruling on his latest travel ban.
Jeffery Wall, acting solicitor general for the United States, told the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals not to consider Trump's campaign statements but only his comments once he took office. Wall said the president's executive order does not ban Muslims, only people from certain countries.
Judge Richard Paez, who asked the most pointed questions during the hearing, compared Trump's order to the one that put Japanese immigrants and their families into American internment camps during World War II.
"There was no reference to Japanese in that executive order, and look what happened," Paez said.
The case, which marks the second time Trump has run afoul of the courts by banning nationals from certain countries, has picked up steam in recent weeks. After Trump's lawyers filed their brief making similar arguments in another case in the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, Attorney General Jeff Sessions criticized Judge Derrick Watson for blocking the president's orders in the Ninth Circuit case.
"I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power," Sessions said during an interview last month. He later sloughed off the backlash from the remark, saying "nobody has a sense of humor anymore."
Judge Ronald Gould, presiding at the Ninth Circuit hearing, asked Wall how the court could know whether the president's executive order was a Muslim ban in the guise of national security concerns. Judge Michael Daly Hawkins asked if the president ever disavowed his campaign statements.
During the campaign, Trump called for a "total and complete shutdown" of Muslims entering the United States. His current executive order bars nationals from Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen -- all Muslim-majority countries -- for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days.
Once Trump took office, Wall told the court, the president retreated from his campaign statements "Over time, the president clarified that what he was talking about was Islamic terrorist groups and the countries that sponsor or shelter them," he said.
Neal Katyal, who argued on behalf of Hawaii in the case, said President Trump has shown a pattern of discriminatory statements and actions. Katyal was surprised that Trump's lawyer suggested the president had disavowed his campaign rhetoric.
"The truth is there is no such statement," Katyal said.
He said the president issued a press release stating his position, which was removed from the campaign website only last week.