A federal appeals court has unanimously rejected a Trump administration request allow its travel ban to take effect.
The three-judge appeals panel declined to overturn a lower court's order suspending the president's ban against entry into the United States from seven majority-Muslim nations.
The travel ban was put on hold by federal district Judge James L. Robart of Seattle, who issued a nationwide restraining order on Feb. 3. Robart said that the two states challenging the ban, Washington and Minnesota, had shown that their residents and universities were harmed by Trump's action. The administration then asked the appeals court for an emergency stay of Robart's restraining order.
The result is a rebuke to the White House. In oral arguments heard on Tuesday, the panel vigorously quizzed attorneys both for the administration and for the state of Washington, the lead plaintiff, which originally filed the suit challenging the travel ban.
The solicitor general for the state of Washington, Noah Purcell, argued that the travel ban is discriminatory and violates both federal statutes and the U.S. Constitution. He told the court that the judiciary's role is to step in and check the abuses of the executive branch.
But August Flentje, special counsel to the assistant attorney general, argued that the president has the ultimate authority to protect the national security and that his action in that regard — namely, the travel ban — was unreviewable by the courts.
However, at least two of the panelists, Judge Michelle Friedland and Judge William Canby, appeared skeptical of the administration's position and whether Trump's travel ban amounts to a ban on Muslims.
As we reported earlier in the Two-Way, Judge Richard Clifton suggested that perhaps there was no such ban since the president's executive order affected only a small percentage (12 percent, according to an NPR analysis) of the world's Muslim population.