Travel Ban Hearing Puts Trump's Stump Rhetoric on Trial

  • Seattle appeals hearing follows same script as Virginia clash
  • Judges are wrestling with relevance of president’s statements

People protest outside the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle, Washington, on May 15, 2017.

Photographer: Jason Redmond/AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump’s rhetoric about Muslims continues to be a key concern for judges weighing the legality of his travel ban.

Monday’s arguments before a three-judge appeals panel in Seattle played out much like a hearing last week in Richmond, Virginia. Again, the Trump administration argued there’s nothing in the language of his revised executive order that shows religious bias, while opponents countered that Trump’s public statements prove he meant to single out Muslims.

Even if Trump’s inflammatory comments during the campaign are put aside, his public comments since taking office leave no doubt about his motivations for targeting six mostly Muslim nations with travel restrictions, attorney Neal Katyal said. Katyal, who was acting U.S. solicitor general under President Barack Obama, is representing Hawaii in its request to uphold a Honolulu federal judge’s ruling keeping the president’s March 6 order from taking effect.

“The president has rekindled all of his campaign statements since his inauguration,” Katyal told the three judges who were all appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton.

Trump’s acting Solicitor General Jeffrey B. Wall argued that the president’s intentions have been misconstrued, noting that just after Trump signed his travel order he made clear his goal was to enhance vetting of radical Islamic terrorists.

“We shouldn’t start down the road of psychoanalyzing what people say on the campaign trail,” Wall said during Monday’s hearing, which lasted a little more than an hour.

Wall also argued that court should not presume that the president’s comments or intentions show that his order was crafted in “bad faith.” The government argues that multiple court rulings striking down his original Jan. 27 travel ban and blocking implementation of his revised order have set unprecedented limits on the president’s authority to regulate the country’s immigration policies. 

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.
    LEARN MORE