By Dan Levine and Emily Stephenson
| SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON
SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON President Donald Trump's administration asked a U.S. appeals court on Tuesday to rule a federal judge was wrong to suspend a travel ban the president imposed on people from seven Muslim-majority countries and all refugees."Congress has expressly authorized the president to suspend entry of categories of aliens," attorney August Flentje, special counsel for the U.S. Justice Department, said under intense questioning from a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals."That’s what the president did here," Flentje said at the start of an hour-long oral argument conducted by telephone and broadcast live online. He said the president's order was valid under the U.S. Constitution.Trump's Jan. 27 executive order barred travellers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days, except refugees from Syria, whom he would ban indefinitely.Trump has defended the measure as necessary for national security. But individuals, states and civil rights groups challenging the ban said his administration had offered no evidence it answered a threat.Opponents also assailed the ban as discriminatory against Muslims. It has been the most divisive act of his young presidency.
Beforehand, the court said it would likely rule this week but not on Tuesday.Trump frequently promised during his 2016 election campaign to curb illegal immigration, especially from Mexico, and to crack down on Islamist violence. His travel ban sparked protests and chaos at U.S. and overseas airports. National security veterans, major U.S. technology companies and law enforcement officials from more than a dozen states backed a legal effort against the ban.
"I actually can't believe that we're having to fight to protect the security, in a court system, to protect the security of our nation," Trump said at an event with sheriffs at the White House on Tuesday.Although the legal fight over Trump's ban is ultimately about how much power a president has to decide who cannot enter the United States, the appeals court is only looking at the narrower question of whether the Seattle court had the grounds to halt Trump's order."To be clear, all that's at issue tonight in the hearing is an interim decision on whether the president's order is enforced or not, until the case is heard on the actual merits of the order," White House spokesman Sean Spicer said.
Trump faces an uphill battle in the liberal-leaning appellate court, although the outcome of a ruling on the order's ultimate legality is less certain.Two members of three-judge panel were appointed by former Democratic Presidents Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama, and one was appointed by former President George W. Bush.The case against the Trump administration, brought by the states of Minnesota and Washington, is ultimately likely to go to the U.S. Supreme Court. (Additional reporting by Timothy Gardner, David Shepardson and Julia Edwards Ainsley in Washington and Peter Henderson in San Francisco; Writing by Howard Goller; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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Updated Date: Feb 08, 2017 05:15 AM