Legal battles to test Trump and his immigration ban

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By Dustin Volz | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON President Donald Trump’s temporary
immigration ban faced on Monday the first of several crucial
legal hurdles that could determine whether he can push through
the most controversial and far reaching policy of his first two
weeks in office.

The government has a deadline to justify the executive order
temporarily barring entry of people from seven mostly Muslim
countries and the entry of refugees after a federal judge in
Seattle blocked it with a temporary restraining order on Friday.

The uncertainty caused by a judge’s stay of the ban has
opened a window for travelers from the seven affected countries
to enter the United States.

Trump has reacted with attacks on the federal judge and then
the wider court system which he blames for hampering his efforts
to restrict immigration, a central promise of the Republican’s
2016 presidential campaign.

Democrats, meanwhile, sought to use Trump’s attacks on the
judiciary to raise questions about the independence of his
Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco over
the weekend denied the Trump administration’s request for an
immediate stay of the federal judge’s temporary restraining
order that blocked nationwide the implementation of key parts of
the travel ban.

But the court said it would consider the government’s
request after receiving more information.

The government has until 3 p.m. PST (2300 GMT) on Monday to
submit additional legal briefs to the appeals court justifying
Trump’s executive order. Following that the court is expected to
act quickly, and a decision either way may ultimately result in
the case reaching the U.S. Supreme Court.

Top technology giants, including Apple, Google and Microsoft
banded together with nearly 100 companies on Sunday to file a
legal brief opposing Trump’s immigration ban, arguing that it “inflicts significant harm on American business.”

Noting that “immigrants or their children founded more than
200 of the companies on the Fortune 500 list,” the brief said
Trump’s order “represents a significant departure from the
principles of fairness and predictability that have governed the
immigration system of the United States for more than fifty
years.”

The controversial executive order also “inflicts significant
harm on American business, innovation, and growth as a result,”
the brief added.

Trump, who during his campaign called for a temporary ban on
Muslims entering the United States, has repeatedly vowed to
reinstate the Jan. 27 travel ban on citizens from Iran, Iraq,
Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and a 120-day bar on all
refugees in the name of protecting the United States from
Islamist militants.

His critics have said the measures are discriminatory,
unhelpful and legally dubious.

Ten former U.S. national security and foreign policy
officials, who served under both Republican and Democratic
presidents, filed overnight a declaration in the court case
against the executive order arguing the ban serves no national
security purposes.

The declaration was signed by former secretaries of state
including John Kerry, Madeleine Albright, Condoleeza Rice and
former CIA Directors Michael Hayden and Michael Morell.

Bob Ferguson, the Washington State attorney general who
filed the Seattle lawsuit, said he was confident of victory.

“We have a checks and balance system in our country, and the
president does not have totally unfettered discretion to make
executive orders as he chooses,” he told NBC News’ “Today” show.

“In the courtroom, it’s not the loudest voice that
prevails… it’s the Constitution.”

On Sunday, Trump broadened his Twitter attacks on U.S.
District Judge James Robart in Seattle, who issued the temporary
stay on Friday, to include the “court system.” Trump a day
earlier derided Robart, who was appointed by former Republican
President George W. Bush, as a “so-called judge.”

“Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such
peril,” Trump tweeted on Sunday. “If something happens blame him
and court system.”

Trump did not elaborate on what threats the country
potentially faced.

It is unusual for a sitting president to attack a member of
the judiciary. Vice President Mike Pence defended Trump, even as
other Republicans urged the businessman-turned-politician to
avoid firing such fusillades against the co-equal judicial
branch of government, which the U.S. Constitution designates as
a check on the power of the presidency and Congress.

Democrats, still smarting from Republicans’ refusal last
year to allow the Senate to consider former Democratic President
Barack Obama’s nomination of appeals court Judge Merrick Garland
to the Supreme Court, have seized on Trump’s attacks to question
his nomination last week of Gorsuch.

“With each action testing the Constitution, and each
personal attack on a judge, President Trump raises the bar even
higher for Judge Gorsuch’s nomination to serve on the Supreme
Court,” Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate, said in a
statement. “His ability to be an independent check will be front
and center throughout the confirmation process.”

Republicans hope to swiftly confirm Gorsuch, a 49-year-old
conservative appeals court judge tapped by Trump to fill the
seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia nearly a
year ago. (Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Susan Heavey in
Washington)



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