WASHINGTON Feb 8 A federal appeals court is
expected to rule on President Donald Trump's U.S. travel ban on
people from seven Muslim-majority countries as soon as
Wednesday, one day after questioning whether the order unfairly
targeted people over their religion.
The temporary ban faced tough scrutiny on Tuesday by a
three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals,
which is weighing a challenge to the order.
During a more than one-hour oral argument, the panel pressed
a government lawyer over whether the Trump administration's
national security argument was backed by evidence that people
from the seven countries posed a danger.
Judge Richard Clifton, a George W. Bush appointee, posed
equally tough questions for a lawyer representing Minnesota and
Washington states, which are challenging the ban. Clifton asked
if a Seattle judge's suspension of Trump's policy was
The 9th Circuit said at the end of Tuesday's session that it
would issue a ruling as soon as possible. The court earlier had
said it would probably rule this week. Ultimately the matter is
likely to go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The appeals court is looking, however, at whether the
Seattle court had the grounds to halt Trump's ban, while the
case challenging the underlying order proceeds.
Trump's Jan. 27 order barred travelers from Iran, Iraq,
Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering for 90 days
and all refugees for 120 days, except those from Syria, whom he
would ban indefinitely.
Trump, who took office on Jan. 20, has defended the measure
as necessary for national security.
The order, the most divisive act of Trump's young
presidency, sparked protests and chaos at U.S. and overseas
airports. Opponents also assailed it as discriminatory against
Muslims in violation of the U.S. Constitution and applicable
A federal judge in Seattle suspended the order last Friday,
and many travelers who had been waylaid by the ban quickly moved
to travel to the United States while it was in limbo.
Trump was criticized for later questioning the "so-called
judge," and on Wednesday tweeted: "If the U.S. does not win this
case as it so obviously should, we can never have the security
and safety to which we are entitled. Politics!"
The legal fight ultimately centers on how much power a
president has to decide who cannot enter the United States and
whether the order violates a provision of the U.S. Constitution
that prohibits laws favoring one religion over another, along
with relevant discrimination laws.
(Additional reporting by Emily Stephenson, Timothy Gardner,
David Shepardson and Julia Edwards Ainsley in Washington, Mica
Rosenberg and Leela de Kretser in New York, and Dan Levine,
Kristina Cooke and Peter Henderson in San Francisco; Writing by
Howard Goller, Amanda Becker and Susan Heavey; Editing by Lisa