SEATTLE — Federal judges on Monday peppered a lawyer for President Donald Trump with questions about whether the administration’s travel ban discriminates against Muslims and zeroed in on the president’s campaign statements, the second time in a week the rhetoric has faced judicial scrutiny.
Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall, who is defending the travel ban, told a three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals that “over time, the president clarified that what he was talking about was Islamic terrorist groups and the countries that sponsor or shelter them.” He argued that the executive order halting travel from six majority Muslim nations doesn’t say anything about religion, and neither the state of Hawaii nor an imam from that state who wants his mother-in-law to visit has standing to sue.
“This order is aimed at aliens abroad, who themselves don’t have constitutional rights,” Wall said in a hearing broadcast live on C-Span and other news stations.
Neal Katyal, who represented Hawaii, scoffed at that argument and said Trump had repeatedly spoke of a Muslim ban during the presidential campaign and after.
“This is a repeated pattern of the president,” Katyal said.
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The 9th Circuit panel was hearing arguments over Hawaii’s lawsuit challenging the travel ban, which would suspend the nation’s refugee program and temporarily bar new visas for citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The judges will decide whether to uphold a Hawaii judge’s decision in March that blocked the ban.
Dozens of advocates for refugees and immigrants rallied outside the federal courthouse in Seattle, some carrying “No Ban, No Wall” signs.
Last week, judges on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments over whether to affirm a Maryland judge’s decision putting the ban on ice. They also questioned whether they could consider Trump’s campaign statements, with one judge asking if there was anything other than “willful blindness” that would prevent them from doing so.