A three-judge panel has wrapped up its hearing into President Trump's travel ban after grilling lawyers on both sides of the debate. We can expect a decision later this week, says a spokesman for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. No matter the outcome, however, an appeal to the Supreme Court is expected. In the meantime, the ban on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries remains suspended. Early coverage suggests it's tough to predict how the judges will rule. Examples of the questioning, via the AP, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.
- Judge Richard Clifton, appointed by George W. Bush, sounded skeptical about the Justice Department's defense of the ban in the name of national security. Noting that the government already has screening in place, he asked, “Is there any reason for us to think that there’s a real risk or that circumstances have changed such that there’s a real risk?” Justice Department attorney August Flentje responded, “The president determined that there was a real risk."
- But Clifton also questioned an attorney for Washington state, one of the states challenging the ban, on why he thinks the ban is discriminatory. "I have trouble understanding why we're supposed to infer religious animus when in fact the vast majority of Muslims would not be affected." Noah Purcell, Washington state's solicitor general, cited previous statements by Trump calling for a Muslim ban. “There are statements that … are rather shocking evidence of intent to harm Muslims,” he said.
- Another judge, Carter appointee William Canby, at one point asked, “Could the president simply say in the order we’re not going to let any Muslims in?’’ Flentje replied: “That’s not what the order does. This is a far cry from that situation.’’
- Judge Michelle Friedland, appointed by Barack Obama, wondered about the seven nations named in the ban. “Has the government pointed to any evidence connecting these countries to terrorism?” Flentje said the legal proceedings were moving so fast that the government had not had time to do so, prompting the judge to suggest that his department's appeal came too quickly.
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