(Adds details on ban, arriving travelers, background)
* Trump says courts making it difficult to ensure security
* President has 'every right' to criticize -Pence
* Appeals court denies request for immediate stay
* Ban will stay in place until appeals court panel acts
* Some travelers take advantage of newly reopened window
By Dustin Volz
WASHINGTON, Feb 5 President Donald Trump on
Sunday ramped up his criticism of a federal judge who blocked a
travel ban on seven mainly Muslim nations and said courts were
making U.S. border security harder, intensifying the first major
legal battle of his presidency.
In a series of tweets that broadened his attack on the
country's judiciary, Trump said Americans should blame U.S.
District Judge James Robart and the court system if anything
Trump did not elaborate on what threats the country
potentially faced. He added that he had told the Department of
Homeland Security to "check people coming into our country VERY
CAREFULLY. The courts are making the job very difficult!"
The Republican president labeled Robart a "so-called judge"
on Saturday, a day after the Seattle jurist issued a temporary
restraining order that prevented enforcement of a 90-day ban on
citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen
and a 120-day bar on all refugees.
A U.S. appeals court later on Saturday denied the
government's request for an immediate stay of the ruling.
Vice President Mike Pence defended Trump earlier on Sunday,
even as some Republicans encouraged the
businessman-turned-politician to tone down his broadsides
against the judicial branch of government.
"The president of the United States has every right to
criticize the other two branches of government," Pence said on
NBC's "Meet the Press" program.
It is unusual for a sitting president to attack a member of
the judiciary, which the U.S. Constitution designates as a check
on the power of the executive branch and Congress.
U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the
Senate Judiciary Committee, said Trump seems intent on
precipitating a constitutional crisis.
Some Republicans also expressed discomfort with the
"I think it is best not to single out judges for criticism,"
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on CNN's "State of
the Union" program. "We all get disappointed from time to time
at the outcome in courts on things that we care about. But I
think it is best to avoid criticizing judges individually."
Republican Senator Ben Sasse, a vocal critic of Trump, was
"We don't have so-called judges ... we don't have so-called
presidents, we have people from three different branches of
government who take an oath to uphold and defend the
Constitution," he said on the ABC News program "This Week."
The ruling by Robart, appointed by former Republican
President George W. Bush, coupled with the decision by the 9th
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to deny the
government's request for an immediate stay of the ruling dealt a
blow to Trump barely two weeks into his presidency.
It could also be the precursor to months of legal challenges
to his push to clamp down on immigration, including through the
construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border, and
complicate the confirmation battle of his U.S. Supreme Court
nominee Neil Gorsuch.
The Senate's top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, said on Saturday
that Gorsuch, a conservative federal appeals court judge from
Colorado, must meet a higher bar to show his independence from
Trump, who during his presidential campaign called for a
temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States, has vowed
to reinstate his controversial travel ban. He says the measures
are needed to protect the United States from Islamist militants.
Critics say they are unjustified and discriminatory.
The legal limbo will prevail at least until the federal
appeals court rules on the government's application for an
emergency stay of Robart's ruling. The court was awaiting
further submissions from the states of Washington and Minnesota
on Sunday, and from the federal government on Monday. The final
filing was due at 5 p.m. PST on Monday (0100 GMT on Tuesday).
The uncertainty has created what may be a short-lived
opportunity for travelers from the seven affected countries as
well as refugees to get into the United States.
Sara Yarjani, an Iranian student with a U.S. visa who was
attempting to return to Los Angeles to visit her parents, was
among those who boarded flights to the United States after
learning that Trump's travel ban had been blocked.
Her visa had been stamped "revoked" and she was sent back to
Vienna last week. She was slated to arrive in Los Angeles on
Sunday, according to her sister, Sahara Muranovic.
"This is our only window," Muranovic said. "Maybe they'll
blow it again by Monday."
FACT AND FICTION
Trump's Jan. 27 travel restrictions have drawn protests in
the United States, provoked criticism from U.S. allies and
created chaos for thousands of people who have, in some cases,
spent years seeking asylum.
Reacting to the latest court ruling, Iraqi government
spokesman Saad al-Hadithi said: "It is a move in the right
direction to solve the problems that it caused."
In his ruling on Friday, Robart questioned the use of the
Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States as a justification
for the ban, saying no attacks had been carried out on U.S. soil
by individuals from the seven affected countries since then.
For Trump's order to be constitutional, Robart said, it had
to be "based in fact, as opposed to fiction".
The 9/11 attacks were carried out by hijackers from Saudi
Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon, whose
nationals were not affected by the order.
In a series of tweets on Saturday, Trump attacked Hobart's
opinion as ridiculous.
"What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a
Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad
intentions, can come into U.S.?" he asked.
Trump told reporters at his private Mar-a-Lago resort in
Florida late on Saturday: "We'll win. For the safety of the
country we'll win."
The Justice Department's appeal criticized Robart's
reasoning, saying the ruling violated the separation of powers
and stepped on the president's authority as commander-in-chief.
It said the state of Washington lacked standing to challenge
Trump's order and denied it "favors Christians at the expense of
The U.S. State Department and Department of Homeland
Security said they were complying with Robart's ruling and many
visitors were expected to start arriving on Sunday, while the
government said it expected to begin admitting refugees again on
A spokesman for the International Organization for
Migration, Leonard Doyle, confirmed on Sunday that about 2,000
refugees were ready to travel to the United States. "We expect a
small number of refugees to arrive in the U.S. on Monday, Feb.
6th. They are mainly from Jordan and include people fleeing war
and persecution in Syria," he said in an email.
Iraqi Fuad Sharef, his wife and three children spent two
years obtaining U.S. visas. They had packed up to move to
America last week, but were turned back to Iraq after a failed
attempt to board a U.S.-bound flight from Cairo.
On Sunday, the family checked in for a Turkish Airlines
flight to New York from Istanbul.
"Yeah, we are very excited. We are very happy," Sharef told
Reuters TV. "Finally, we have been cleared. We are allowed to
enter the United States."
(Additional reporting by Chris Michaud, Lin Noueihed, David
Shepardson, Daina Beth Solomon, Dustin Volz, Chris Francescani
and Reuters TV; Writing by Ayesha Rascoe and Dustin Volz;
Editing by Paul Simao and Mary Milliken)